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Local author honors woman with book

Date: 11/28/2012

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — The Agawam Public Library will host Michael Tourville, author of "A Promise to Astrid," for its next AuthorTalk event on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. in the community room.

This summer Tourville, an Agawam resident, published the book about his former Chicopee neighbor Astrid, 25 years after her generosity helped his family through a tough time. Despite the years passed, her influence still affects his life.

Since its publication, Tourville said that he has met others whose lives were also impacted by Astrid. One such person was the unknown man who knocked upon his door many years ago and notified Tourville that Astrid was in the hospital. That kindness enabled Tourville to visit Astrid before she passed.

"I wouldn't have known him if he stood in front of me — all I knew was that he worked on her car," he explained. "After the book came out I received a letter from the mechanic that spoke of how he was also touched by her generosity." Tourville met the man in-person and he told Tourville that he "was very touched by the book."

Tourville still visits St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Chicopee, where Astrid attended, and where he first introduced the story to the public. "Through conversations with the members [who remembered Astrid and Tourville's family], I was able to shape Astrid's personality in the story by their recollections," he explained.

These details enabled Tourville to vividly describe Astrid's character — readers feel as if they personally knew her.

"I wanted to capture her personality — bring her back into people's lives in some way," Tourville stated. "She was a combination of compassion and determination. She was the sweetest woman ever. She had a smile that could light up a room."

Initially, he hadn't intended to write the story, but eventually decided that it couldn't go untold. Tourville described his first attempt at writing the book. "About ten years ago I started writing the story down, but it was the worst book ever — I couldn't stand to read it, so why would anyone else? However, the idea came to mind again and I decided that I should make it into a readable story. That's when I decided I have to make this work right," he said.

In his effort to do so, Tourville approached Astrid's sister-in-law Niesa Rustad. He admitted he was unsure of her reaction since Astrid's family did not know about the help she had provided his family.

"I was nervous when I called her," Tourville pointed out. Once he explained the purpose of the story, Rustad was willing to help, so he sent her a draft so she could clarify the facts.

"After she read the story I received a hand-written note from her with pictures of Astrid. She thanked me for writing the story — I was absolutely floored," he said.

"I'm sort of surprised — I've never written a book before and wasn't sure how it would be taken," Tourville commented about people's reaction to the piece. "Readers tell me that they knew someone just like Astrid and that the story brings back memories of that person."

The first draft of the book also had a different title. "I had called it 'The Angel Next Door,' because that's what she was to me, but it didn't catch the meaning of the story," Tourville said.

"I looked for a recurring theme and I noticed that all along, she had made me promise little things here and there like not telling her husband about the gift, just before she called him over in an attempt to block my protest of her help. One of the things she made me promise was to help somebody as she had helped me," he continued. Hence, the title.

Reflecting on the experience, Tourville disclosed that while Astrid's help meant a great deal at the time she extended it, it means more now that he sees the entirety of her influence.

When asked if he thought Astrid would be proud of the book, Tourville answered, "I hope so — it's [meant as] a wonderful tribute to her." He added that she would probably have scolded him for bringing attention to her good deeds.

For more information about the event, visit the "calendar" section of To register, contact the Information Desk at 789-1550, ext. 4 or Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

The book can be purchased at, and