I tend to cover non-fiction, memoir-esque, travel-related books for this blog, but every once in awhile I find a piece of fiction that does a stellar job at conveying a sense of place. In preparation for an upcoming trip, I was looking for books about Iceland, so I picked up The Tricking of Freya, by Christina Sunley, and I not only fell in love with the story, but I also learned a lot about a country I’m going to be visiting for the first time.
The Tricking of Freya is told by a girl (Freya) in the form of a letter to her cousin. The child of an Icelandic mother and American father, Freya recounts her summers as a child in Grimli, a small town in Canada settled by Icelandic immigrants, in which readers learn about a family at odds. Freya’s mother is practical and not concerned with staying connected to her Icelandic roots, her bipolar aunt (Birdie) is obsessed with writing an epic poem about Iceland and her grandmother, Sigga, just tries to keep the peace. Over the years, we see Freya struggle with the consequences of a tragic accident she caused and the circumstances that tumble into place after the accident, which leads, at one point, to a whole summer spent in Iceland.
The story is rich in character development, and intimate plot details that draw readers into Freya’s head as she grows older and grapples with the surprises life throws at her as people close to her age and share shocking details that have the potential to derail her life. The added mystery of the cousin she’s writing this lengthy letter to adds another twist to the story.
But it’s not just the story that makes The Tricking of Freya such a deep read. It is steeped in Icelandic history, culture, language and lore. Much of this is a result of Birdie’s attempt to educate Freya in her family’s past through conversation and during their journey to Iceland, but it’s also sprinkled liberally throughout the book for flavor—when Freya visits with elders in Grimli, during a stop at a local bakery, as she pokes through the things in her grandmother’s home.
I adore books that have a stellar sense of place. In fact, they’re often the ones I most enjoy reading, and The Tricking of Freya is no exception. For anyone interested in a good read about Iceland while also immersing themselves in a well-written fictional story, this is the book to read.