Andrew David MacDonald comes to the blog with a literary fiction title that’s different from the norm in
When We Were Vikings
Originally I grabbed at this title for the main character, Zelda, who seemed to structure her life around some simple rules and seemed to be trying to live her own life with her older brother Gert being her own family. This looked like a story that would have some interesting points, particularly as one of her ‘life points’ was to understand that the most important stuff can’t always fit on them. And that was intriguing. And then the story started and Zelda was much more than a simple character – she’s got Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and that has her working to learn basic life skills, has a disabled boyfriend, is quirky and obsessed with sex, sees a therapist regularly, and for much of her life it’s been her and her brother against the world. But Gert is doing all sorts of things, legal and illegal – and it’s up to Zelda to navigate the tricky waters of the world to make things work out and get him out of jail.
So far, so good – and the story was quick reading and flowed well. But there were issues – some felt forced, some just felt outright ‘icky’, and there was a strong sense of Zelda not being as “together” as she wanted to appear, and unable to see the contradictions in her world view versus her situation. She’s a bit of a snob – going to great lengths to tell us she’s ‘different from many with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and she’s quite vain – she enjoys the attention of men (even without the sex) but isn’t quite advanced enough to understand ‘good versus bad’ interactions with them. The obsession with sex is something that is easy to understand – and it does make her feel much younger – but she’s also not random with that desire – there’s a sure plan that she’s trying to work on with her boyfriend – who is also disabled.
Then we have the “Viking” tie in – I get it – really I do. There’s a certain level of ‘self-motivation’ behind the calling herself a Valkyrie that would appear attractive to someone who, at the root, feels different and perhaps a bit helpless. But we are so frequently reminded of that – and the other ‘quirky’ traits of the other characters that just once I was hoping to find someone without any – maybe even a bit boring and wallflower-like. Perhaps most disturbing for me was not the disabilities in themselves – I thought the author did a solid job trying to bring different characters with different issues in, but there were moments where offhanded comments and attitudes felt dismissive and degrading, and left me with an overall bad taste in my mouth. That being said – the author had some unique ideas and character portrayals, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Title: When We Were Vikings
Author: Andrew David MacDonald
Genre: Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction - Adult, Literary Fiction
Published by: Scout Press
Published on: 28 January, 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 14 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible ♦Direct from Publisher
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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.