Today Tanya Kaanta, reviews When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald. Our first review in 2020 from across the pond.
💫 When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
💫Back of the Book
A heart-swelling debut for fans of The Silver Linings Playbook and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.
For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:
1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.
But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.
When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all…
We are all legends of our own making.
💫About the Author
Andrew David MacDonald grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He won a Western Magazine Award for Fiction, was shortlisted for the Canadian National Magazine Award for Fiction, and his work has been anthologized in four volumes of The Journey Prize Stories, collecting the year’s best Canadian stories from emerging writers. He has an MFA from the Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
💫 Review by Tanya Kaanta
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
I held off reading this book for a long time. For some reason, I thought this book might be a burden for me to read. Something I might have to slog through. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When We Were Vikings is fast paced with a heroine’s voice that grips a tender space in my heart and shines through the entire novel.
Zelda is different. She’s twenty-one, lives with her older brother, and loves Vikings. We know from the beginning, her cognitive reasoning and pathways differ than mainstream young adults her age. Why this is the case has everything to do with her mother’s abuse of alcohol. What I love about the writing is that Zelda is not a caricature. Her voice comes alive, we learn to understand Zelda and the decisions she makes. How she communicates and why. And she’s authentic. So authentic. I love Zelda.
We know she lives with her older brother, Gert. He does not have the same cognitive differences that Zelda has, and is responsible for her well-being. He’s currently in college on a scholarship, though he’s not taken a typical path to higher education. Gert and Zelda have experienced great trauma and as the story progresses, Gert’s choices are understood. How he was able to start college at the age of twenty-one, after winning a scholarship. And why he chooses to interact with shady characters in order to care for Zelda. At least in his mind, it allows him the ability to provide protection.
As we know, things go awry. Especially when we interact with shifty people and illegal dealings. And once Zelda realizes her brother is in trouble, she rises to the occasion, as any strong Viking would.
It’s a beautiful messy story of loyalty, deception, love, pain, trauma, and triumph. A story where both Zelda and Gert evolve, ushering the siblings into a new stage of their lives. I adored this book.
💫 Buy Link
💫 Final Thoughts
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