Greenland, AD 1000
More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.
New Hampshire, 2016
Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.
In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.
Two women, similar struggles, one thousand years apart.
Freydis, only daughter of Erik the Red, is faced with a decision: marry a man she doesn't love or respect in the hopes of one day commanding her own sailing ship, or face an uncertain future under her brother's thumb in a land rapidly converting to Christianity and abandoning the faith and traditions that are so important to her. Against counsel, she chooses marriage and discovers that it still isn't enough to grant her her heart's desire, or to protect her right to worship her gods, particularly Thor, in whom she places her utmost trust and faith. So when a stranger appears offering her physical and spiritual comfort and promising her the life of her dreams if she only stays true to her faith, she accepts and determines to forge her own destiny, though she will have a difficult journey ahead of her.
In the twenty-first century, congressman's daughter Emma Moretti struggles to reconcile her departure from Catholicism with her place in her community and in her own family. But the middle of her father's brutal reelection campaign isn't exactly the best time to announce that she's a Heathen, and her excitement at teaching Norse history at the local college is quickly dampened when her views are challenged in the classroom. To make things worse, a reporter has gotten hold of information about her faith that gives her father's opponent ammunition to take him down right before the election, and Emma has to decide if standing up for her beliefs will cost her more than she's willing to lose.
So this story ended up being not quite what I was expecting. I think I got so excited when I saw Amalia Carosella and Erik the Red's daughter that I stopped reading the blurb and immediately said yes to reviewing the book. I enjoyed Freydis's story, but I was not such a fan of Emma's. I confess I found Emma to be rather weak, and I skimmed a lot of her internal conflict, her arguments with her parents about attending church, and her rehashing of those arguments and her interactions with her boyfriends with her best friend. I kept saying to myself, if your friends don't think you're religious enough for them, find new friends! Find a backbone! Stand up for yourself! She finally does, but I found most of her story to be repetitive and slow-moving. The initial bright spot was her budding romance with Alex, her father's campaign manager, but that quickly became rather tame as well. More interest came along later in the story when Emma had to contend with allegations of religious discrimination and personal bias in the classroom. While the questions raised are thought-provoking and challenging, I just wasn't in the mood for such contemplation or for a mirror of what's going on politically in the US right now. I've been reading to escape all of that. And while I think the author succeeded in drawing relevant parallels between these two women in two very different time periods, I was expecting the two narratives to have more of a connection between them, not just similarities in their experiences, but more of a tangible physical or spiritual connection between the two protagonists as we see so often in dual timeline stories.
But Freydis's story was fresh ground for me. I loved the depiction of the time period, and though her pride and stubbornness cause her problems, I found her strong, fiery personality much more engaging, as were her relationships with her husband, lover, and family. The struggle to hold on to her faith in the Norse gods as Christianity laid claim to her lands and her struggle to hold on to her identity and make a name for herself as a woman rather than as a wife felt more dramatic and compelling within its historical context. I could have read an entire novel just about her, and I think there was a lot of potential and room for creative license to carry her story further.
So take two stars for the modern-day story, four stars for the historical story, and you get what amounts to a three-star read for me. Not one of my favorites, but still a book I can recommend to anyone interested in the subject and time period. Well written, as always from Ms. Carosella, and well worth a read for the historical details, and for the theological discussion, if you're in the mood for one.
My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5
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Daughter of a Thousand Years