What am I working on?
I’ve just finished editing and doing the page layout for Odin’s Promise, a middle-grade historical novel by Wisconsin author Sandy Brehl.
Odin’s Promise is set in Norway in the early years of World War II, as neighbors in a small village in western Norway begin to organize their quiet resistance against the German occupying soldiers.
Odin is young Mari’s elkhound. Mari is eleven as the story open, and the Germans have recently invaded the country under the pretense of having been invited in (by a puppet government), ostensibly to “protect” the citizens of Norway against imagined threats from the Allied forces. The Nazi Germans saw the blond, blue-eyed Norwegians as part of the anointed Nordic/Aryan race, and probably expected the Norwegians to welcome their invasion.
In political reality, however, the Germans were just inventing excuses to invade so they could secure access to the ice-free North Sea harbors of Norway, key to the Third Reich’s desire to control the North Atlantic and possibly mount an invasion of England.
Sound familiar? As I write this post, Russians troops under Putin have moved into the Crimean region of Ukraine, to protect their Black Sea naval ports and disrupt the Ukrainian government, all under the guise of having been “invited” into the country to protect the interests of the local citizens.
On the contrary, when the Germans invaded Norway in the spring of 1940, the Norwegians began a long, war-long effort of resistance. Some of it was military in nature, with small bands of Norwegians hiding in the mountains and striking at German installations. The most famous operation was the late-winter strike against the “heavy water” factory at Rjukan in March 1943; heavy water was vital to the atomic energy program Germany was attempting to develop. The dramatic destruction of the factory by Norwegian commandoes on skis helped to scuttle German efforts to build atomic bombs.
But most of the resistance by average Norwegians, who proved to be soundly patriotic, was of a more quiet nature. Citizens in small villages collected and passed on information about German activities, they shared with each other BBC radio reports of the war’s progress, and they opposed the German forces, who tried to insinuate themselves into local good favor, with a pervasive lack of help, shunning, chicanery and small obstructions, and often with humor, making fun of the Germans and making it clear that they were not welcome in Norway.
Odin’s Promise tells the story from the point of view of a young girl, who gradually come to learn that her neighbors and family are involved in this low-key but courageous resistance. It has some scenes especially significant to Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans, such as the subversive role of wearing red knit caps, singing the national anthem, and looking for excuses to wear traditional garb, and to celebrate Norwegian independence day (Constitution Day, on May 17, also known as Syttende Mai).
As always, I get involved in the stories I edit, doing as much independent research and fact-checking as I can to find ways to enhance the story. I love historical fiction, especially for young readers, because of its special ability to bring history to life in stories that will inspire readers emotionally as well as intellectually. Such stories, celebrating the resistance of democratic, free-spirited people to all who would try to suppress that spirit, are important to write, publish, and share. Especially with young readers.
This year’s May 17 is the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution.
It’s also the official pub date for Sandy Brehl’s Odin’s Promise. She’ll celebrate with a book signing – Saturday, May 17, at the Nordic Nook Gift Shop in Stoughton, home of a big annual Norwegian-American Syttende Mai festival that weekend.
For details, visit Sandy Brehl’s website.
Brehl’s book is a lovely story, invoking the historical setting of the war and the local resistance of Norwegians, without turning it into a war novel. It’s ultimately a story about friendship and family, faith and courage, and dealing with hardships and losses by drawing on our best human traits: enduring love and quiet convictions.