Read about a young woman on a quest of her own
When We Were Vikings — Andrew David MacDonald
What to Read This Week
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald
What It’s About
Zelda has a lot of rules about her own life, like no strangers in the apartment and tomatoes cannot touch bread if they’re in a sandwich (they’ll make it soggy), but her biggest rule is to live like her heroes of the past: the Vikings. She loves their fearsome nature, their bravery in battle, and their never-ending desire to take on a new quest.
But it’s a little hard for her to live every day like a quest, since, at 21, she lives with her older brother and their life seems anything but extraordinary. Zelda was born with fetal alcohol syndrome and has mental disabilities, which means here brother has been in charge of jobs to keep them afloat. When Zelda discovers he’s taken more drastic measures to earn extra money (in the not-so-legal way), she knows it’s up to her to find out what he’s up to and put a stop to it: a quest of her very own.
It’s a lot harder than she thought it would be, and there are a lot of people in the world who don’t live like Vikings, or like any hero, for that matter. But she takes more risks than she normally would and takes some chances on some new relationships that may not be as scary as they once seemed, and she begins to believe she may be able to be her own Viking after all.
Content warnings: This book is incredible but also deals with some tough issues in a very upfront manner, so if you are sensitive to the following, please take care while reading. The book includes violence, sexual violence, rape, use of the “R” word, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Why I Like It
When We Were Vikings places Zelda, a woman with mental disabilities, at the front and center of her own story. She’s not a side character and not there to further someone else’s life: she’s her own, whole person. And that’s what I love about this book. Zelda’s voice is funny and smart and authentic, and she’s a character that’s stuck with me (a full two years after I first read this book, back in March 2020).
Who Will Like It
Readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine who enjoyed the unforgettable main character voice will also gravitate toward Zelda. Or if you read and enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and fell in love with a family bucking the system and doing its own thing, I think you’ll also be a fan of this one as Zelda and her brother make their own way, against all the odds that “society” gives them, and figure things out for themselves.
I just finished A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw, and it is a more popular pick, but I’m going to recommend it here anyway! It was a 5-star read for me: an incredible story of missing people and the hunt to find them, combined with the moody atmosphere of a cold, foggy spring morning. I did half on audio and half in print so I could keep reading no matter what I was doing, and both formats were great. It has a multi-narrator audio cast if that’s something you look for in an audiobook.
Have you read this one? What are you reading this week? Let’s chat books in the comments!
Can’t get enough, or looking for a different recommendation? Browse the archives, or check out some popular past recommendations:
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