I finished this book almost one week ago. Usually I write a review within two days of finishing a book. But this one was different. This one was personal.
First and foremost, this book is brilliant. It is brilliant.
My great-great grandparents on my father’s side emigrated to the United States from Norway. My great-great grandfather’s name was “Thorbjørn.” His father was named after Thor, as was his father. The farther back on my tree that you go, the more you see names like “Odin,” “Frigg,” “Freyja,” and variations thereof. Norse Mythology is literally in my blood, and I have been fascinated with it for years. So when this book popped up for review, and a redhead wearing Mjölnir was on the cover? Count me in, right. now.
The book covers the stories of Freydis Eiriksdotter (about 1000 A.D.) and Emma (2016.) Two women, a thousand years apart, connected by ancestry perhaps; but more importantly, connected by their devotion to Thor. Freydis is living in Brattahlid, Greenland, right around the time that Christianity has reached the area. She remains loyal to her gods and her beliefs, holding tightly to her faith despite the great hardships and heartaches thrown her way, as everyone around her converts to Christ. She is strong, determined, opinionated, a favorite of her father and determined to forge her own path.
Emma was raised in a Catholic home, but no longer attends church. Her family believes she is going through a phase. What Emma hasn’t told her family…or anyone, other than her best friend…is that this is nowhere near a phase. Emma wears a Mjölnir pendant under her shirt, given to her by her aunt. The aunt who lives in Iceland, who still worships the old gods. The same gods that Emma worships, as well. And with her father being a congressman, and this being an election year, Emma’s secret must stay hidden. From her family, her new boyfriend, from everyone at work. Yet, hiding is not something Emma feels that she should have to do.
Each chapter switches between Freydis and Emma, and does so seamlessly. The book flows effortlessly, and despite my best efforts (I loathe feeling feelings), I got so caught up in the lives of these two characters. (Also, Freydis isn’t exactly a character. There is mounting evidence that Freydis Eiriksdotter actually lived, born around 970 A.D. to Erik the Red.) This book made me cry more than once. I had to put the book down a few times, to get myself breathing and back to to reality. (Only to pick it back up again about 1.5 heartbeats later.) Some of the other characters, who are wonderfully developed (and again, are more historical than fictional) made me angry. And some of the characters made me ridiculously happy. (Wait until you meet Sonnung. You’re going to want to thank the author yourself, I promise you.)
Bottom Line: I have never, ever had a book hit me so hard. It has challenged my beliefs. It has forced me to step outside of my comfort zone, to study the beliefs that my ancestors held to so fiercely. That people today, hold to so fiercely. Get the book. Meet Freydis. Meet Emma. I promise you; you won’t be able to put it down, even long after you’ve finished it.
**Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing, for the opportunity to read and review this book!