The Girl from Copenhagen: A Memoir
by Glenn Peterson

"No doubt, like her husband, she had the spirit of wanderlust in her blood—after all, she had gone off to America with a man she had known for no more than a week."

As much a travelogue of Denmark as a memoir, this engaging book celebrates the life of Inge Buus, the author’s mother, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 94. While working as an accountant at a shipyard, Inge survives the 1940 Nazi occupation of Denmark. Soon afterward, at a local dance, she meets Bob Peterson, a handsome and charming American GI. Within a week, Inge accepts Bob’s marriage proposal and moves to the United States to fulfill her hopes of a better life.

The family initially settles in New Jersey, where they build their first home. In a significant portion of the book, the author recounts many excursions back to Denmark. Through his vivid descriptions, we experience first-hand the tours of magnificent castles, the famous Tivoli Gardens, and Udsigten, the highest hill in the town of Tranum. This narrative strategy makes the final third of the memoir all the more poignant as the author shares his experience as Inge’s caregiver during his mother’s progressive dementia and her inevitable decline.

Although typographical errors detract from the book’s overall effectiveness, the memoir is carefully researched and includes precise dates to mark significant events in the family’s history. The author’s tone is admirable for its fine balance of authoritative historian (his recounting of Nazi SS men stopping Inge on her way into her place of employment) and intimate family chronicler (the journeys back to Denmark). This mix helps him avoid sentimentality, and this narrative distance draws readers more closely into the family circle and avoids appealing only to new generations of the Peterson ancestry. The memoir contains an extensive appendix of family photographs, many of which correspond to the events rendered throughout the story. This addition provides readers with an up-close and personal portrait of Inge and the author’s extended family.

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