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***Fly Fishing the River of Second Chances

Life, Love, and a River in Sweden

by Jennifer Olsson

Reviewed November 18, 2004.
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2003.  272 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (B OLS).

Jennifer Olsson was a fly fishing guide in Montana when she got a call from a man in Sweden wondering if she’d be interested in working with him at a fly fishing school, teaching fishermen’s wives how to fish.  Jennifer went with him on a three-week trip to explore the possibilities, and ended up coming back to spend part of her life living in Sweden.

The three-week trip ended up causing the break-up of not one but two marriages, which is rather hard to get enthusiastic about.  However, I enjoyed the majority of the book, about adjusting to life in Sweden.

As you may be able to tell from my last name, my husband is of Swedish descent, and we visited Sweden with his parents during our first summer in Europe.  That made me all the more interested in what life is like in a forest village of Sweden in modern times.

Lars Olsson is a riverkeeper of a stream in Sweden off a river being restored from the damage due to timber logging.  Using worms is prohibited, and only catch-and-release is practiced.  The fish of the river are thriving.  The first summer after Jennifer and Lars committed to each other, they rented a house with no indoor plumbing and an unfinished second floor.

The story of that summer together is the typical sort of cross-cultural story that I enjoy so much.  There are the colorful inhabitants of the village, the humorous misunderstandings because of the language barrier, and the insights into life that come from seeing the world through different cultural eyes.

Their family planned to spend summers in Sweden and the rest of the year in Montana.  At the end of her first summer in Sweden, Jennifer said, “I thought about the smell of firs after they had been warmed by the sun; the taste of the blueberries that had been picked and eaten along the trail to the second windbreak; the grayling’s metallic-blue-green body and magenta dorsal fin.  I wanted to inhale the forest and the memories of birch-wood smoke, the sight of swifts beneath blue skies, the grayling at the end of my line, and hold my breath for one of those long winter days when I could exhale and have the summer reappear and renew me.  Months would pass before I would touch and taste and smell a Swedish summer again.”

You can touch and taste and smell a Swedish summer vicariously through the pages of this book.


Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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