Cover image for Two women
Two women
Fredriksson, Marianne.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Flyttfåglar. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 2001.

Physical Description:
x, 195 pages ; 25 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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From the author of the bestselling Hanna's Daughters comes a new novel about the power of friendship to heal us in unexpected ways. Inge, a native Swede, and Mira, a Chilean immigrant, develop a close bond as they begin a wrenching journey of discovery. Inge wonders whether the truth is really what any of them needs to find, or if, in fact, it is the truth that will destroy them.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Fredriksson tells a quiet and beautiful story of two women whose chance meeting in a gardening store blossoms into a powerful friendship that ultimately heals old wounds. Both women are divorced and worry needlessly over their grown children. Inge is a native Swede, beautiful and elegant. She writes books about teaching children and keeps a journal of her thoughts and observations. Mira is Chilean, dark and exotic. She speaks two languages, although she thinks in Spanish and curses in Swedish. She is deeply religious and talks to God daily. During afternoons of tending Inge's garden, the women find themselves revealing their lives and their secrets. Mira shares her memories of the horrors that forced her to escape her home: the terror and torture unleashed by the government on its own people. Over time, the hidden memories of the death of one of her sons and the disappearance of her only daughter flood back, and Mira must face the pain she has tried so hard to forget. As Mira shares her story, Inge, too, discovers a family secret that shakes her to her core. The strength of Fredriksson's writing lies in its simplicity and the detail she infuses in her characters. The result is a moving novel about the power of friendship and how distance and the passage of time can heal the pain of the past. --Carolyn Kubisz

Publisher's Weekly Review

Swedish novelist Fredriksson (Hanna's Daughters) offers a formulaic, mannered relationship saga about two mature, divorced women from vastly different cultural backgrounds who establish an improbable but enduring friendship. In Sweden in the 1980s, Inge Bertilsson, an unsentimental former school teacher who now writes books on education, befriends a Chilean immigrant, Mira Narvaes, who arrived as a political refugee from Pinochet's dictatorship years before with her husband and sons. Gingerly, each of the women, both near 50, begin to explore the other's world: Inge, who lives alone and has two grown daughters, endured marriage to an abusive, alcoholic husband, whom she claims still to love. She asks probing questions about the other woman's past in Chile that Mira, a proud, pious, vivacious woman, would rather keep buried. But then Mira decides to search for her daughter, who at 13 was raped by soldiers, then disappeared into a Chilean prison. With the help of Inge's two daughters and Mira's own sons, now well-assimilated Swedes, the two women discover what actually happened during those dark years. Fredriksson is bent on telling a straightforward tale with little regard to narrative style; she unaccountably switches from voice to voice and offers hackneyed descriptions (loneliness "closed in around them like shrunken old garments"). Perhaps this is the fault of the translation, which is flat and full of British vernacular. While Fredriksson's observations about Swedish society are occasionally pointed and even humorous, and she also illuminates the horrors of the Pinochet regime, the novel never achieves liftoff. (Apr.) Forecast: Fredriksson's great popularity in Scandinavia and Europe has yet to translate into comparable numbers here. Hanna's Daughters did well for Ballantine, however, and her audience will undoubtedly enjoy this novel, leading to respectable though not stellar sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Elegant Inge meets Chilean immigrant Mira: a tale of two women from the best-selling Swedish author of Simon's Family. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER ONE We meet in the garden center. We are separated by a huge trolley, some three meters by eight, filled with thousands of pansies. An unruly blue and purple sea, with flashes of yellow like waves glittering in the sun. She is standing directly opposite me, and her face reflects my own delight. I gesture towards the flowers, saying something about how wonderful they look. She smiles broadly and replies that there is nothing like flowers for making you feel that life's worth living. "Or maybe small children too," she adds. This startles me. She speaks good but accented Swedish and I realize she must be an immigrant, perhaps from Chile. "I haven't thought about it like that," I say. "But you're right, of course." Then we both react to the wind rattling the panes in the roof of the tall greenhouse and agree that it is too early in the year to plant our pansies. Every night still brings a touch of frost. "And then there's the wind," she says. We hug our coats tighter as we walk from the greenhouse to the shop. "My name's Ingegerd," I tell her. "People call me Inge." "And I'm called Edermira, but here in Sweden it's Mira." We nod, as if to signify that things somehow feel right. I am curious about her. A little later Mira is speaking quickly and eagerly to the girl behind the counter. She is asking for the bulbs of . . . She is forced to halt, close her eyes, think and find the right name. In Spanish. The shop assistant twists the corners of her mouth into a smile that is both anxious and scornful. Then she laughs, shrugs and says, turning to me, "Do you know what she's on about?" I answer awkwardly, blushing with shame: "She's asking for African blue lilies." I try to catch Mira's eyes and say, "They stick to tulips in this place. Let's go." But my voice falters when I register how furious she is. It is a deep black fury shot through with red, and crackling like electricity. Her entire being seems to spark. Instantly, I realize her inner force. We leave, and trudge along in a wind that pierces our coats and sweaters. I am freezing. Mira seems unaware of the cold. Down by the water's edge the sun slips through the gray. We find shelter behind a rock and turn our faces up towards the light. There is so much I want to tell her: how ashamed I am and how it is true that every nation has its share of stupid people. That the girl in the garden center was just being silly, not nasty. And probably nervous, I also want to say. But I stay silent, because these are the kind of words that fall flat, the kind that leave no trace, let alone grow any roots. A kind of hopelessness is gnawing at my insides; nothing can put this right. On an impulse I put my arm round Mira's shoulder, but realize at once that I am overstepping the mark. I withdraw and instead point at the sky. "See those gulls? They're heading for my lawn to hunt for worms." Mira is not interested. She says, "I'm always so concerned about my dignity." Overhead, the gulls are now screeching so loudly I have to shout to make myself heard. "I'm just the same. I think it has something to do with getting older." I fall silent for a bit, ashamed again, then add, "But, of course, it's different . . ." "Yes, that's right. I'm sure you're respected wherever you go." The sun succeeds against all odds and breaks through. The sky has a purple tinge. The sea turns blue. We look at each other and smile. I note that the sheen has returned to her honey-colored skin. Her hair seems to have settled back into place; she wears it in a smart, short cut. "I went to Madeira last autumn," I tell her. "In November, when the weather here is at its worst. There were rootstocks of Agapanthus africanus for sale in Funchal market and I bought about a dozen. I've potted them and keep them in my greenhouse. At least three are in leaf. Why don't you come home with me and I'll give you some?" Then I feel uneasy: maybe this, too, is intrusive. "I've only got a small house with a terrace, you see, and the garden is small too. There's no room for ten new pots. Besides, these Afros grow into big bushy things." And we laugh together, at last. We get up and walk along the beach. She moves quickly, with long purposeful strides. I follow her, calling, "Slow down!" She stops and waits for me, with a small apologetic grin. "Gosh, you're fit," I say. Later I see that those big strides are second nature to her. She leaps along as if over hurdles, up steps, across floors and lawns. "I'm always in a hurry," she says. Then the path along the beach comes to an end and the suburban streets begin. I stop and say as I look out over the water, "I was born near the sea. It pulls at me--sometimes it even seems to be part of me. I feel a kind of affinity with it." I am embarrassed but she listens seriously, nodding as if she understands. "I, too, grew up near water. It was a river. I would slip off down to the bank when I was little. Though we were not allowed to." Her eyes look far away, lost in memory. They are not as brown as I had thought, they have green lights. "I love thinking about the Rio Mapocho, how it tumbled from the snowy peaks of the Andes, rushed down the mountains, picking up speed and power on the slopes. How, up there in the mountains, the river flowed with pure clear water." She is quiet for a while, her face seems to tighten. "But then the Rio Mapocho has to run through Santiago and picks up so much filth. By the time it reached the suburb where I lived, it was brown and sluggish." I nod, and say that my sea is dirty, too, that the entire Baltic Sea is polluted; the bottom is lifeless. "Oh, how awful," she says, but her voice sounds sour. I say nothing. We are both still silent as we walk the last stretch to my house. She is trying to adjust her speed to mine. Suddenly she says, "I'm sure you must have seen my river on television. Pinochet's soldiers threw corpses into the Mapocho." I do not dare tell her the truth--that I closed my eyes when the images on the screen became unbearable. Excerpted from Two Women: A Novel of Friendship by Marianne Fredriksson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.