Book review: “Mari’s Hope”
Arden Hills, Minn.
Mari’s Hope, the concluding novel in Sandy Brehl’s Odin’s Promise trilogy, takes us again to the small village of Ytre Arna, the home of Mari, a teenager mature beyond her years. She has become a highly trusted medical assistant to the village doctor.
As in Odin’s Promise and Bjorn’s Gift, Norway struggles through World War II and occupation by German troops. In 1940, the Germans entered Norway, claiming to be “Viking Brothers.” Few Norwegians believed them.
Mari’s family and other Norwegians loyal to the Resistance face dangers every day. Soldiers occupy Mari’s family home, forcing them to move into Grandmother’s small cottage. The soldiers expect the Norwegian family to clean, cook, and care for them.
Times are lean for those who remain loyal to Norway, but for those who betray their country, provisions are plentiful. Neighbors no longer trust neighbors, especially those who appear to take sides with the Germans. Mari is disappointed with her former classmate, Leif, who joined the German forces. She feels she can no longer call him her friend, though he tries in subtle ways to alert her to dangers.
Much of Mari’s story is told through the secret notebooks she keeps as she writes to her brother, Bjorn, who is away as part of the resistance movement. Mari also often visits the grave of her beloved dog, Odin, killed by the Germans while trying to protect her. She pours out her thoughts and fears to Odin, hoping the enemy will not hear her, especially the German called Goatman, who seems to always be lurking about.
Under the guise of being ill and needing further diagnosis away from the village, Mari and her sister travel to Bergen. She is shocked to see how German occupation has changed the city dramatically from the peaceful, cozy city she had visited at an earlier time.
While in Bergen the girls distribute secret messages and secure needed medications to take back to Dr. Olsen in Ytre Arna.
In May 1945, Norway is finally free. Church bells peal and words of freedom spread like lightning. The soldiers from Mari’s house line up with their squad leader who thanks Mari’s family for the use of their home and their service. Then they are gone.
Many of the Norwegian neighbors are finally able to reveal that they had been working with the Germans in order to secretly distribute information to the Resistance. Life had been difficult for them as well.
The bravery of the Norwegians during World War II inspired me. Telling this story through young Mari and the hope she clung to helped me see the simple ways they found to enjoy life even in the worst of times.
Sandy Brehl is a teacher and award-winning member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The trilogy she has written educates young and old alike.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 17, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.