The Tricking of Freya

( 17 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Tricking of Freya: A Novel

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Overview

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).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Packed with delectable relationships and family secrets . . . We come away charmed, moved, and larger within, having toured a hidden world with a passionate guide."—Joan Frank, San Francisco Chronicle

"An intricate family travelogue...This grand coming-of-age-novel boasts a dynamic set of characters and a rich bank of cultural and personal lore, making this dark, cold family tale a surprisingly lush experience."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Sparkles with the author's love of language and of her own Icelandic culture. The book's masterfully told final mysteries reveal themselves as magically as darkroom images appearing under the light." —More magazine

"An impressive debut . . . This novel works on several levels: as a drama of family dynamics; as an immigrant story; and as a showcase for the author's broad and deep knowledge of Iceland."—Mary Ann Gwinn, The Seattle Times

"An excellent debut . . . If all you know about Iceland is failed banks and Bjork, this is a highly readable introduction."—Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor

"[An] amazing debut...Like the famed poet within, Sunley's writing is truly poetic. She brings here settings alive in a way that will make you believe that you have been there and experienced it all yourself."—BookBitch.com

"Epic... Sunley's research shines through in a story in which the landscape of Iceland is as much a character as Freya, making this an exceptional and unique coming-of-age novel." —Washington State Journal

"Irresistible...smoldering emotions in a cold climate." —Telegraph Herald

Publishers Weekly

Sunley's debut novel is an intricate family travelogue, based in the present of Icelandic-Canadian life and the half-mythical world of her grandparents' Iceland. Sunley gives narrative reins to the granddaughter of a famous Icelandic poet, young Freya, whose memoir begins with the summer she first meets her mom's family in the Icelandic-Canadian village of Gimli. The bitter tension Freya discovers between her sensible mother and her unpredictable aunt goes deeper than personality differences, apparently tied to Aunt Birdie's role as family history keeper, her insistence that the children learn their Icelandic heritage, Norse mythology and language: "Icelandic words are tricksters. Acrobats. Masters of disguise. Shape-shifters." Equally capricious are Sunley's characters who, over 20 years of family storms and mental illnesses, pull Freya across the globe, landing her more than once in beautiful, beguiling Iceland itself. This grand coming-of-age-novel boasts a dynamic set of characters and a rich bank of cultural and personal lore, making this dark, cold family tale a surprisingly lush experience. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Freya Morris is writing to her cousin. She doesn't know who or where she is, just that she exists, or so Freya believes. Descending from a long line of poets tracing back to Iceland, Freya is recounting her life story to share some day with her missing relative. Based on an offhand comment that Freya overheard, it appears that her aunt Birdie, a nickname for Ingibjorg, gave birth at some point. Freya and her mother, Birdie's sister, live in Connecticut, and every summer they visit Gimli, a small Canadian town originally settled by Icelanders. Freya and her family are descendants of Olafur, Skald Nyja Islands, or the Poet of New Iceland. Words and poetry are very important in the Icelandic culture, so Freya's family is well respected in Gimli. As with all families, though, all is not perfect. After a freak accident, Freya is torn between a vibrant but troubled aunt and her mother, who needs and loves her. Sunley's first novel moves among the United States, Canada, and Iceland as it recounts the tale of a fascinating family. Readers learn about a little-known culture as they follow the twists and turns of Freya and Birdie through the past into the present day. For fans of first novels and readers of family sagas; recommended for public libraries.
—Robin Nesbitt

From the Publisher
"An intricate family travelogue...This grand coming-of-age-novel boasts a dynamic set of characters and a rich bank of cultural and personal lore, making this dark, cold family tale a surprisingly lush experience."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Sparkles with the author's love of language and of her own Icelandic culture. The book's masterfully told final mysteries reveal themselves as magically as darkroom images appearing under the light." —More Magazine

"High-spirited and precocious Freya is the only child of her late-in-life, widowed mother, who waits until Freya is a coltish seven to finally return to Manitoba , Canada , to visit her mother and her sister, wild and beautiful Birdie. Freya’s grandfather was a revered poet, and her family is proud of their Icelandic heritage, especially Birdie, who insists that her niece learn Icelandic and memorize the ancient sagas, a mission that turns disastrous. Freya tells the story of her strange, nearly catastrophic girlhood years later, an act that liberates her from a lonely and smothering life. This wounded daughter of a land of the midnight sun recounts a journey to Iceland as dramatic, dangerous, and mysterious as any ancient epic adventure, and retraces her ardent quest for the truth about a staggering family secret. Steeped in the highly symbolic mythology, complex language, and otherworldly landscape of Iceland, and the little-known story of the nineteenth-century Icelandic diaspora, Sunley’s astonishingly accomplished debut is a bewitching tale of volcanic emotions, cultural inheritance, family sorrows, mental illness, and life-altering discoveries."—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Some novels, in addition to all else they accomplish, simply make great company: Christina Sunley's first novel is one...We come away charmed, moved and larger within, having toured a hidden world with a passionate guide." —San Francisco Chronicle

"Impressive...an armchair tour of a country of unparalleled beauty and strangeness."—The Seattle Times

"[An] amazing debut...Like the famed poet within, Sunley's writing is truly poetic. She brings here settings alive in a way that will make you believe that you have been there and experienced it all yourself."—BookBitch.com

"Epic... Sunley's research shines through in a story in which the landscape of Iceland is as much a character as Freya, making this an exceptional and unique coming-of-age novel." —Washington State Journal

"Irresistible...smoldering emotions in a cold climate." —Telegraph Herald

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312429386
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 588,563
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

CHRISTINA SUNLEY grew up hearing stories about her Icelandic grandparents and the massive emigration that followed a 19th century volcanic eruption. She has visited Iceland for extended stays to research and write this novel. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she has taught memoir writing and fiction at universities. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

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Reading Group Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The Tricking of Freya are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The Tricking of Freya.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(13)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Geneology most cruel

    How would you remake yourself if you found out everything you knew about your parents was a lie?

    This story is at once bleak and joyous, complex and honest. If you have had not previous contact with anything Icelandic, you will still enjoy this tale. If you have, prepare youself for a really wild ride, clutching at your gut on one page and laughing on the next. This author writes from some experience with the complexities of the Icelandic character and uses it with great skill weave a tale so believable, I almost imagine it to be autobiographic.

    The book is lyrically written as well, in a style that places plot clues so skilfully, it is hard to imagine she hasn't been churning out books for decades. The way the author draws historical reference through the mind of Freya so gracefully makes me wholeheartedly believe that every living person is a genuine composite of their ancestors.

    I really look forward to reading additonal works by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Sunley is a talented storyteller

    I have had The Tricking of Freya on my TBR list for a few months. I don't remember where I heard about this book but it intrigued me. If you like learning while reading, you will love this story. The author weaves in the Icelandic language and mythical stories as she tells a story about a young girl who learns of a family secret.

    At age seven, during Freya's first visit home to meet her family, Freya overhears that her Aunt Birdie had a child.

    The novel opens with Freya, now a grown woman, writing a letter to a cousin she has yet to meet. As the pages turn we learn about Icelandic culture while reading about a family of strong women. Aunt Birdie is often at the center of the story, and Freya's journey to finding her cousin is a memorable one.

    Sunley is a talented storyteller. I loved the ending!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2009

    The Tricking of Freya is captivating!

    Having grown up with grandparents who lived in Gimili and the surrounding districts of New Iceland, yet growing up in the U.S. myself, I felt that Christina Sunley did a fantastic job of describing how it was to be a Western Icelander....the rich heritage & traditions of our ancestry is so much of who we are today. She nailed it, yet did so with the captivating
    story of Freya....I LOVED IT!!! Thank-you Christina!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014

    Skadi

    Here

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good book about travel

    I loved the scenery they described, both in Winnipeg and Iceland. Honestly, I would love to visit Iceland now! The book held my interest, I really enjoyed it.

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  • Posted January 9, 2011

    Wonderfully written - couldn't put it down

    A highly engrossing book - a great story about family secrets and their devastating effects. Also, a very interesting story about Icelandic culture, language and a diaspora I wasn't aware of before reading this book.

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  • Posted December 21, 2010

    Fascinating Story About Iceland and Icelandic Immigrants

    This book was chosen by my book club, and 9 of 10 readers gave it high marks. The story involves a family of Icelandic immigrants to Canada and includes travel back to Iceland. I know nothing of this land and its culture and learned a great deal. The story involves solving a mystery and deals with mental illness in a very realistic yet sympathetic way. Freya, the narrator, was a compelling figure and we, in the book club, liked the book's narrative style.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    A Great Memoir!

    This book is the fictional memoir of a young American woman of Icelandic descent, named Freya. The story really piqued my interest in the country of Iceland, a place that I've actually never really thought much about. It is also the story of this woman's relationship with her Icelandic family, and in particular her mother, aunt, and grandmother, and some very remarkable events that happened throughout Freya's life, in particular a crazy event that took place in her childhood. The first part of the book had me reading well into the night because of the interesting character, Aunt Birdie. The second half of the book had me reading well into the night because of the great family secret that Freya was trying to find out about. This book is very well written. Do not let the first few chapters (and their oddities) prevent you from reading further. A great read!

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  • Posted February 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    odd but fascinating

    Having overheard her mom and aunt argue even if their voices were kept low, Freya Morris knows her Aunt Birdie once gave birth to a child. However, no one says anything further as to what happened to the child. She hopes one day to meet her nameless cousin, but in the meantime writes a memoir she prays she can present to her unknown and unnamed relative.<BR/><BR/>Freya has lived in Connecticut, but her maternal Icelandic relatives live in Gimli, Canada. She learns she is a descendent of a long line of great Icelandic poets, which means her cousin is too. Whereas her aunt pushes their Icelandic heritage on Freya; her mom is Americanized. Over the decades Frey is pulled in opposite directions. <BR/><BR/>This is an odd but fascinating novel that gracefully moves between time (over two decades) and place United States, Canada and Iceland). The key to tale is the fully developed three strong females as the two sisters yank the next generation in totally opposite ways. Fans who appreciate a somewhat dark dysfunctional family saga will enjoy Freya¿s fable as one side of her embraces the convenience of American materialism while the other cherishes Icelandic adaptation to Norse mythology.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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    Posted May 22, 2011

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    Posted April 28, 2010

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