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The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley

The Tricking of Freya

by Christina Sunley

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2514474,984 (3.82)29
A young woman obsessed with uncovering a family secret is drawn into the strange and magical landscape, language, and history of Iceland. Freya Morris is living in New York, far removed from her family and her past, when she is summoned back to the formative place of her youth, a remote Canadian village called Gimli, where her Icelandic ancestors settled long ago. Her ancient grandmother, a woman who knows all the family stories, now clings to life. In Gimli, Freya picks up the thread of a secret--one that leads her through her history and ultimately back to Iceland. Along the way, we learn the story of her early visits to Gimli, the truth about her exuberant, mercurial aunt, and the full scope of a tragedy that shattered her childhood in an instant. A vivid, moving story of an immigrant family and the culture of a little-known nation,The Tricking of Freya is "astonishingly accomplished . . . a bewitching tale of volcanic emotions, cultural inheritance, family sorrows, mental illness, and life-altering discoveries" (Donna Seaman,Booklist).… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Okay I will admit to skipping over some of the parts about Iceland. But partly because I'm reading it for a book club and had to get it done. And I will admit to figuring out the "trick" ahead of time, well most of it. Otherwise, I thought it was well written with interesting and unique characters. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Okay I will admit to skipping over some of the parts about Iceland. But partly because I'm reading it for a book club and had to get it done. And I will admit to figuring out the "trick" ahead of time, well most of it. Otherwise, I thought it was well written with interesting and unique characters. ( )
  mamashepp | Mar 29, 2016 |
Iceland captures my imagination. It is on the list of places I'd like to see one day. Other people want to visit exotic beaches and warm water destinations. While those are definitely appealing in their own way, I lean toward the stark beauty of glaciers, lava fields, and crisp fjords. And I lean towards places that have a strong folkloric tradition, places where stories, oral and written, valued and celebrated. And so for me, Iceland. In Christina Sunley's novel The Tricking of Freya, Iceland looms large both as the place from which the very tale itself originates and the heritage of the immigrants who left their small island in search of a new life in Manitoba.

Freya Morris lives in Connecticut, daughter of Anna, niece of Birdie, granddaughter of both Sigga and the long deceased but revered poet Olafur, the Skald Nyja Islands (Poet of New Iceland). When Freya was a child, Anna took her back to Gimli, the Icelandic community outside of Winnipeg named for Heaven, to spend the summers with Birdie and Sigga. It is during these summers that Freya learns of her Icelandic heritage, tackles the complicated language, hears the old myths, and eats the food of her people. And it is at Gimli that Freya will be changed forever, indelibly marked by her actions and those of others.

The summer she is seven, the first summer that Anna takes her to Gimli, an exuberant Freya turns a cartwheel at the welcoming party and crashes into her grandmother's china cabinet. Delicate, old tea things are smashed, the cabinet demolished, and when Anna see the wreckage and Freya in the midst of all the glass, she faints dead away, hitting her head so hard she falls into a coma for days. Left in her aunt's care as her grandmother tends to her mother in the hospital, Freya is equal parts attracted to Birdie and repelled by her. And this attraction and repulsion will be the hallmark of her conflicted feelings for this complicated aunt for many years. Although Anna wakes from the coma, she is much changed, fragile and unsteady, and Freya often takes on the role of mothering her own mother although she is still very much a child herself.

Year after year Anna and Freya return to Gimli for the summers where Freya continues to be pushed into and pulled from her aunt's orbit. She is fascinated by her late grandfather's status as a celebrated poet, Birdie's compulsion to write and dedication to her life's work, The Word-Meadow, a modern Icelandic poem, and young Freya determines that she too wants to be a poet someday. The summer that Freya is 13, a somber child who carries an impossible weight of guilt for causing her mother's accident, Birdie steals her away from Gimli, taking her to Iceland on a quest, in a move that will eventually be called kidnapping and that will expose Birdie's instability to the young Freya. Freya will be changed once again for the vitlaus (Icelandic for crazy or mad) adventure and for the eventual result, Birdie's suicide months later after her release from a mental hospital, piling on another layer of guilt for Freya.

There are no more Gimli summers for Freya and she stays away from all the memories waiting to ambush her there until she is finally summoned back for her Sigga's 100th birthday where she will overhear the secret that sets the whole novel in motion. Outside a window, she hears tell of an illegitimate child of Birdie's, given away to adoption and so starts her fevered search for her cousin. The novel is a letter she's writing to Birdie's child of all her memories, the family stories, and the terrible events that led Freya to her search, despite the conspiracy of denial all around her.

Sunley has written beautifully of the haunting landscape of Iceland and the deep veins of mythology that crisscross the island. The land and the people are unsurprisingly poetic given the Icelandic reverence for words. Freya's character is drifting and undirected until the discovery of the existence of Birdie's child. Her obsession with this unacknowledged cousin mirrors Birdie's mania for discovering the whereabouts of her father's lost letters home to his uncle Pall, the catalyst of her flight to Iceland with Freya. Birdie's character is like an Icelandic volcano, quiet sometimes, rumbling sometimes, and sometimes erupting and changing the course of all the lives around her. The writing is descriptive and lush and Sunley accurately captures the mercurialness of bipolar disorder. As the title suggests, Freya is tricked the way that Gylfi is tricked in Norse mythology, ultimately discovering the truth without the attendant satisfaction of uncovering it. And in fact, the reader knows the truth long before Freya uncovers it, making it strange that the ending then still feels a bit rushed. This is a well written novel about both a literal search and also a search for self and the truth of that self within the context of family history and stories. It is a celebration of Icelandic culture and community and a quiet testament to connection and coming of age. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jun 7, 2014 |
I love it when I'm enthused by a first novel. It is exciting to discover a new voice that you enjoy and can hope for more work from. Christina Sunley uses beautiful language. It reads well, it makes pictures in my mind and it sounds full rolling around in my mouth.

Beyond the language she tells a story about a girl that I cared about. As she tells of her childhood joys and tragedies I wanted to learn her secrets. She reveals herself and those secrets.

I recommend this book highly. ( )
  k8davis | May 21, 2013 |
The best book I've read in a long time. A puzzle easily solved, an ending that is somewhat predictable. The reader is meant to know what Freya cannot. The Tricking of Freya is a book you won't want to put down. ( )
  emmee1000 | Jan 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
The story carries you along with Freya through her adventures, with beautiful descriptions of Iceland and its inhabitants, as well as poignant descriptions of family members lost and sought. The “tricking” referred to in the title is a mystery at the core of the story, which the reader solves along with Freya, coming each to their own conclusions about what may be real, what may be believed, and which of those is closer to the truth.
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