Would you help a stranger survive if it meant putting your own life at risk?
Hamburg, Germany, September 1949. Young housemaid Uli Hartmann is heartbroken after the loss of her lover Hansi, a private in the German army. Hansi is believed to have drowned after deserting his post in Norway during the war. But Uli finds that before his disappearance, Hansi had written several letters to a Swedish woman named Elsa Pettersson, and Uli is now determined to find her. How did Elsa and Hansi know each other? Had they been in love? With a vivid imagination that often gets her in trouble, Uli struggles to find her place in the world without Hansi. Now the unknown Swedish woman may be her only chance to find out what really happened to him.
Krokom, Sweden, 1949. Elsa Pettersson works as a shop assistant in the Krokom general store. She is fiercely independent and ambitious, but living a single life as a young woman in a small northern town is no easy feat. Furthermore, Elsa has a dark secret. If anyone were to find out where she has been going late at night for the past year, her reputation would be ruined and she would probably lose her beloved job too. What’s worse: a person she has come to care for would be in terrible danger. Late one night a muddled German woman knocks on her door – and Elsa finds herself with yet another life on her hands.
When Elsa sees her own handwriting on the letters Uli has brought, she freezes. Is Uli a spy who has come to expose her secret? Or could she become a friend with whom to share the burden she has been carrying for so long? Elsa decides she needs Uli’s help to both fulfill the commitment she has made – and to finally free herself from it. The impulsive Uli couldn’t be any more different from the responsible Elsa, but as life draws them together the two women are forced to trust each other.
Elsa has always tried to maintain a low profile in the midst of small town gossip, but the sudden appearance of an odd German woman following her every move draws the attention of the villagers. Yet no one seems to suspect what the pair is really up to. No one but Tora Olsson, the blind wise woman who is thought to possess the ability to see into people’s minds. Uli and Elsa try to keep her at bay until they realize that Tora has something they desperately need…
Crooked Paths is a riveting story about loneliness and unexpected alliances, about trust, deception, love, mental illness, and above all, about female friendship. In an unexpected triangle drama where the stakes are life or death, one woman’s desperate search for love is poised against another woman’s desperation to do the right thing. And, ultimately, in each of their own excruciating self-sacrifice, both women find higher purpose.
“[Elin Olofsson] has perfect pitch when it comes to thorny relationships and life in the small town Swedish countryside. […] A colourful, well-written novel with a plot so ingenious and surprising that it keeps you on tenterhooks to the very last page.”
Ingalill Mosander, Aftonbladet (SE)
“With a light hand and precise language, a world war and a global conflict is boiled down to the fates of a few individuals in the village of Krokom in Jämtland. […] A beautiful and important novel.”
“This is a small gem of a novel about unexpected friendship in post-war Sweden.”
Yukiko Duke, Vi Läser (SE)
“At its heart Crooked Paths is a book about human kindness. About daring to follow your inner moral compass even though it may pose problems for yourself. […] I very much like the way Olofsson approaches the child of war, Uli. Tenderly, carefully, and with respect. This is for the most part a story about local history – approachable, entertaining, and action packed.”
“A warm and captivating page turner.”
“Olofsson portrays this quite unlikely tale with the thriller writer’s skill at gradually revealing details, and it’s quite simply thrilling. But she doesn’t forget the rest: the cautious relationship between Elsa and Uli, the small-town mentality, and each of the two women’s backstories […] A fine and delicately told novel.”
“This is an author who trusts that the sensitively portrayed characters speak for themselves, and with lovely descriptions of what makes one thing lead to another – why they become entangled with one another and that chain of events leads in new directions, whether they want it to our not[…] It’s an absorbing read, in all its ‘simplicity’. Refreshing.”
“Olofsson shows a deeply felt empathy for people who are alone and worse for wear; she portrays both women with great passion and generous warmth. […] Crooked Paths is a subdued but well-written novel, where she once again stands out as an incredibly skilled storyteller.”
Skånska Dagbladet (SE)