At the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge monthly meeting on Saturday April 21st, author Dr. Inga Wiehl read excerpts from her recently published book, Heartstrings: A Tale of Danish Loyalty, Resistance, and Homecoming, discussed her research for the book and answered questions from her audience.
Inga first explained that the occasion for Heartstrings was the death of her mother, which brought her back to Denmark in December of 1984. After her funeral, she spent a week by herself in her mother’s house in Southern Jutland, where the memoir is set. While there, she would look out the window at the land she had loved first and at the photographs on the walls that she had seen all through her childhood, especially those of her grandmother, who had lived with her the first ten years of her life. Inga explained that she had never bothered to ask any questions about her grandmother’s life before she became part of their family but that during that week after her mother’s funeral, she realized that she now wanted to do so. How had her grandmother managed to run her farm, bring up two children, and survive to be the strong, resilient, mild, and loving grandmother that she was ? She did not know who to ask; her grandmother’s generation of mostly women was long gone, and her own parents were gone as well. All she had were her own memories. She came to discover however, during subsequent summers of researching Southern Jutland history, that she also had a rich archive of personal and national records pertaining to the years Southern Jutland was German territory (1864-1920). Inga scoured second-hand bookstores for books not available in local libraries and visited museums, buying what she could not borrow, and started drafting what would become Heartstrings.
The rest is history, figuratively and literally, carefully researched and told in a heartfelt manner. It’s a story both real and as the author has imagined it in letters between her grandmother and her friend Carola. It’s a story is of a region and its people at a particularly challenging time in history as well as a piece of immigrant literature, written from the double perspective of those who left and those who stayed behind.
Inga Wiehl holds a B.A. from the University of Copenhagen and an M.A. and PhD in comparative literature from the University of Washington.