From the bestselling award-winning author of The Lady and the Lionheart
“Beloved author Joanne Bischof doesn’t disappoint with her latest beautifully written, heartrending tale . . . a quick favorite for historical romance readers.” —Elizabeth Byler Younts, author of The Solace of Water
A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love
After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.
But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.
As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?
A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.
About the Author
Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children. Visit her online at JoanneBischof.com; Facebook: Author, JoanneBischof; Instagram: @JoanneBischof.
Read an Excerpt
Blackbird Mountain, Virginia August 27, 1890
AVEN PEERED DOWN AT THE LETTER AGAIN, noted the address written in Aunt Dorothe's hand, then looked back to the wooden sign that was staked into the ground. The location matched, but with the Virginia summer sun overhead and the shores of Norway but a memory, she was suddenly having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other.
A humble lane loomed — both ahead and behind. Yet if she were to walk on, it would be away from the woodlands she'd spent the morning traversing and into the shade of countless orchard trees. Apple, judging by the fruit dangling from the gnarled branches. A sweet tang hung in the hot air. Aven drew in a slow breath, bent nearer to the sign, and fingered the rough-hewn letters.
Aye, then. 'Twas the place. The land where Dorothe's great-nephews roamed. Free and wild the boys were, or so the stories declared. Aven minded not. Having lived within the workhouse, she'd had to watch from afar as many of the orphans there faded away. The change in circumstance now — in freedom — had her eager to find the house. The family. Most especially, the children.
At a beating on the path, she looked up to see a hound bounding near. The dog's tail wagged as the animal sniffed around Aven's shoes. The banging tail struck her leg, and Aven reached down to pet the glossy brown head that lifted in greeting.
The dog gave a few licks, then trotted back along the path as if to show her the way. As it surely knew more of these rolling woodlands than she, Aven clutched up her travel-worn carpetbag. She walked on, brushing dust from her black mourning gown as she did. A dress no longer needed since the two years of mourning had ended before she'd even set foot on this place called Blackbird Mountain. When a stick crunched up ahead, she shielded her eyes. Heavy were the shadows in the grove as afternoon pushed into evening, brighter still the sun that pierced through.
Another twig snapped and a man stepped into the lane, not half a dozen rows up. Aven could tell neither his manner nor age as he knelt with his back to her, stacking metal buckets. The dog circled him contentedly.
Feeling like a trespasser, Aven strode near enough to call a hello. The man didn't turn. It wasn't until her shadow fell beside him that he glanced her way. Slowly, he rose and, using a thick hand, pushed back unkempt hair that was as dark as the earth beneath his boots. It hung just past his shoulders where it twisted haphazardly, no cord to bind it in sight.
His lips parted. Eyes an unsettling mix of sorrow and surprise. A look so astute that it distracted even from the pleasing lines of his face. He spoke no greeting. Offered nothing more than that silent, disarming appeal as if the world were an unfair place for them both.
Aven struggled for her voice. "G'day, sir. Might you ... might you be able to tell me where Dorothe Norgaard could be found?" Though Aven had been a Norgaard for four years now, the Norwegian name never sounded quite right in her Irish brogue.
The man glanced to the carpetbag she white-knuckled, then to her dusty shoes and up. He ran the back of his hand against his cropped beard. More uneasy, Aven adjusted her grip on the leather handle, reminding herself that she had read the sign right.
The Norgaard farm. This had to be it.
She'd traveled too far and too long to be in the wrong spot.
Seeming displeased, the man shoved back the sleeve cuffs of his plaid shirt, and finally he thumbed over his shoulder.
Apparently the lad hadn't the gift of the gab.
And why she was thinking of him as a lad was beyond her. The man seemed more grown than she at her one and twenty. Looking nearly as sturdy as the tree behind him, he had more than a few stones on her as well.
His gaze freeing her own, he angled away and thumbed farther up the lane again.
Aye. She should be moving on ... that way, it seemed. She gave a quiet thank-you and he nodded, his brown-eyed gaze on her as she passed by. 'Twas but a few steps ahead that Aven halted. This man had the same brow as her Benn. One bearing the noble angles of Norse blood. Though the stranger's hair was a far cry from Benn's pale locks, she saw something in his manner. That same strapping stance and pensive look.
"Might you be one of the Norgaards?" She hoped her accent wasn't too thick for him. It seemed Americans had a hard time with her dialect.
With two buckets apart from the rest, he stacked them. The gaze that landed back to her was apprehensive. He had a wildness about him, and combined with his silence, her unease only grew. But then he nodded. Aven smiled a little. No stranger, but family.
"I'm Aven. Widow to Benn."
The man nodded again as if having known as much.
Perhaps this was an uncle to the children. But why Dorothe didn't mention an uncle ...
"So ..." Aven pointed past him, and when a strand of rust-colored hair whipped into her face, she twisted it away. "I'm to walk this way?"
He dipped his head once more, which had her smiling again.
"I thank you, Mr. Norgaard." Clutching the handle of her carpetbag tightly, she continued down the lane, feeling his eyes on her. Strange bloke.
She walked on another few moments, then she spotted a large red house up ahead. Faded and weather-beaten, it looked more like a giant barn than a home, but with its porch swing and laundry line, 'twas clearly the latter.
Aven glanced back to see she was being followed. From a fair distance, she'd give him that. But it still had her eyeing the man with every few trees they passed until the orchard opened up into a vast yard. Thick, twisted branches giving way to sheds and outbuildings. Two of the structures were massive, a distant one was charred, and around many sat stacks upon stacks of wooden crates and more metal buckets than she'd ever seen in one farmyard.
Her companion stopped and folded his arms over his chest. Hesitantly, Aven continued up the path the same moment a second man emerged from the house. Though as tall as the first, this one's strength was wiry. His hair was a few shades lighter but just as long, judging by the way it was pulled back and bound. Heavy boots stomped down the steps.
Another Norgaard? She glanced around for a sight of the children — but saw nary a toy about, and the clothing pinned to the line was by no means pint sized. Aven regarded the stranger on the porch and resisted the urge to touch her mother's delicate chain around her neck, as she often did when nervous.
"Hello, sir." She stepped closer and extended a hand, which seemed very small when wrapped in his own. "I'm Aven. I was married to Benn." That seemed odd to blurt out, but she didn't know how many of these introductions were to take place.
"Ah." He studied her a moment. "A pleasure to finally meet you, ma'am." He cleared his throat and gave his name. Jorgan.
She knew that name from Aunt Dorothe's many letters. But Jorgan was to be a wee lad. And this man was no such thing. Aven scrutinized him. Dorothe had certainly not portrayed the sons as men. Before she could make sense of that, another one stepped from the house. Though the third brother's charms had been described in great detail, his great-aunt's praises didn't do justice for who could only be a very grown-up Haakon. The young man's brilliant blue eyes took her in, and though he was clean shaven, his brawn dashed any lingering notion of the Norgaard offspring being children. Even as panic rose, Jorgan spoke.
"And this is Haakon. He's the youngest."
Pear in hand, Haakon cut a slice and used the flat of the knife to raise it to his mouth. Nothing but mischief in that striking face. "We've been wonderin' if you'd show up."
Aven swallowed hard. How had she been so mistaken? She searched her memory of Dorothe's letters. Time and again the Norgaard males had been depicted as anything but adults. Boys, Dorothe had called them. Going on to hint at their adventures and mischief, their rowdy ways and their need to be guided. Even chastised. Most often in Haakon's case. The same Haakon who was smiling down at Aven as if he hadn't seen the inside of a woodshed for a good long while.
Hands now trembling, Aven clutched them together, and her attempt at a fervent response came out a mere whisper. "Pleasure to meet you, sirs. You are the ... the brothers? The sons?"
Sons of whom, she couldn't remember. Dorothe wrote little of the boys' deceased parents. Yet dashed was the image of three children needing Aven to help care for them. Mother them. Aye, Aunt Dorothe had been misleading indeed. Growing stronger was the need to speak with the woman and make some sense of this.
"Yes'm. I'm the oldest," Jorgan said. "Best just to call us by our first names or you'll be sayin' 'Mr. Norgaard' an awful lot. It seems you met Thor. He's in the middle." He pointed past Aven to where the dark-haired man still stood a few paces back. The one who looked strong as an ox and who had yet to take his focus off of her.
Thorald. As was written in the letters. Amid pen and paper, it seemed he held a tender spot in his great-aunt's heart, but not for a hundred quid would Aven have put the name and person together. "Aye," she said hesitantly. "We've ... met."
Jorgan smirked. "Sorry. Thor, he don't talk much."
So she'd learned.
Jorgan glanced past her, then around as if searching for words.
"Did you walk here from the train station?"
"Aye." And her aching feet were recalling every mile from town.
"I'm sorry we weren't there to fetch you. And I'm sorry about Benn."
"Thank you," Aven said softly. She lowered her luggage to the ground, unsure of what to say in this instance. Her husband — their cousin — gone.
And now she was here in America.
The dog sniffed at her shoes and Haakon snapped his fingers. "Grete!"
The dog retreated to his side.
Aven looked around. With three men near she was more than ready to see another woman. "Might you tell me where I can find Aunt Dorothe?"
Jorgan glanced at the brother beside him before rubbing the back of his neck, then it was to her he spoke, eyes drawn up beneath troubled brows. "You didn't get my letter, I take it."
She shook her head.
He cupped his opposite arm just above the elbow. "She's ... I'm afraid Dorothe's ... gone. Two months now."
"Where did she go?" Aven's skin flushed. Mourning dress feeling much too heavy and tight.
"To — to heaven."
"Most likely." Haakon slipped another slice of pear in his mouth.
Aven's stomach dipped. Head rushing with a light heat that made the earth tip on its side. "She's ... deceased?"
Jorgan ducked his head sympathetically. "I'm sorry to have to tell you like this. I wrote you soon as it happened, thinking I might be able to reach you." He studied her from her windblown hair to her scuffed shoes. "I can see I was too late."
She needed to sit down but there was nothing other than the dirt, and that she lowered herself to, caring for neither dress nor stockings. Suddenly feeling very small, she blinked up at the clear, blue sky that was a blatant reminder of just how far she was from Norway. Even Ireland. She was here in Virginia. A place called Blackbird Mountain. And there was no Aunt Dorothe.
Though the woman wasn't family by blood and though their letters had formed but a modest friendship, Benn's great-aunt had become all Aven had left of family.
"What do I do?" she whispered to herself.
The man — Jorgan — moved beside her. He knelt in the dirt, touching work-roughened fingers to the ground between them. "Miss?"
Aven drew in a shaky breath and looked up at his face. "What do I do?" she asked again.
"You ... you just put your arm on mine." He moved to help her. "Come inside. Miss Ida, our housekeeper, will get you something to eat."
Jorgan led her up a few steps, then across a wide porch. Brows tipped up in confusion, the youngest brother held the door open. Jorgan led her into the kitchen where he pulled out a chair at the table and helped her into it. From the pantry stepped a woman with skin as dark as cinnamon sticks. With a gentle smile the woman brought Aven a cup of coffee and a slice of spiced bread. Aven touched neither. Instead, she clasped her hands between her knees to keep them from shaking.
She vaguely heard the woman speak. "She's mighty pale."
Then Haakon's voice. "She's Irish."
Aven sat without moving.
"I mean to say she's taking a turn, Haakon. 'Bout to faint." The cool knuckles of the woman's hand pressed to the side of Aven's temple, and Aven nearly closed her eyes.
Jorgan spoke in a hushed tone. "She didn't know of Dorothe's passing."
With the scrape of a chair, he sat. The woman handed him a cup of coffee. From the corner of her eye, Aven saw Thor leave.
"Are you alright?" Jorgan asked gently.
She nodded, but even the simple motion felt untrue. Despair stung her throat, parching it more than the walk up this mountain. She turned the tin cup in her hand, the sight of the steamy brew tightening her stomach.
"You're still welcome here," Jorgan said, sounding sincere.
"But we don't have anywhere to put her," Haakon countered, none too quietly.
Aven glanced around. Dusk was settling. "Would there ... would there be other family around?"
"No, ma'am." Haakon's blue eyes — stunning as they were — lessened in charm as they skimmed the length of her. "Just us."
No one moved. All still as the steamy air. A throb pulsing in her chest, Aven placed a hand there. She drew in a deep breath through aching lungs. 'Twas no time to despair. Yet the very tremor rose as a flood. Her vision blurred, and someone spoke words she didn't hear.
The porch creaked, followed by heavy steps. A moment later someone lowered a glass of water in front of her. She peered up to see Thor set it in place. Water dripped down the side of the glass as if it had just been filled from a spring. When she didn't reach for it, he nudged it closer, then dried his hand on the side of his pants.
A small sip sent cool water down her throat as well as a whisper of gratitude to the man who had fetched it.
With a slight limp the housekeeper stepped near and placed a tender hand on Aven's own. The woman's face was soft with concern. A sensitivity that pressed the ache of tears to Aven's eyes. The woman bid the men to leave them for a few minutes. When they strode out, the housekeeper squeezed her hand again.
Aven closed her eyes and sent up a prayer, nay, a plea, that this day was a dream.
"Now, don't you fret none. We gonna see that you's just fine. Better'n fine. I promise ya. I been keepin' house here for nigh unto thirty years. The boys used to call me Mammy, but now's they grown, they call me Miss Ida. I'll take good care of you." A few stray coils of gray hair framed her glistening forehead, and the eyes studying Aven were filled with such kindness that Aven felt safety edge around the uncertainties.
"You don't need to be afraid of nothin'. The Norgaards are all good boys. Raised 'em up meself, and they's as loyal a lot as comes."
Slowly, Aven nodded.
"Now." Miss Ida motioned deeper into the house, one that seemed to groan with the same emptiness that hollowed Aven from within.
Yet this house was far, far away from the life she'd known, and perhaps this time — in this place — there might be safety and rest. Even a home. Had Dorothe not written of that very thing? The scripture she'd shared had coaxed Aven away from the shadows of the past and onto the gangway of that ship.
"The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble."
With a ginger grip Miss Ida led them both to stand. She plucked up the carpetbag as if it weighed nothing at all for her spindly frame. "If there's one thing I know about Haakon, it's that he don't always know what he's ramblin' on about." Ida gave a friendly squeeze to Aven's arm and winked. "Let's find a spot to put ya."CHAPTER 2
THOR WATCHED FROM THE PORCH AS IDA led Aven into the great room. He stepped inside and followed just close enough to see the way the young redhead skirted around the faded sofa, then an end table laden with books. Her feet slowing, she stared up at the massive antlers above the fireplace. Eyes wide, she lowered them to the firewood flanking the brick hearth on both sides.
Though the logs were neatly stacked, the curtains that had once framed the window just above were no more — having been used to make clothing during the war. Her attention skimmed to the guns that rested on a side table, then to the boxes of ammunition slung open, freshly rummaged through. His own doing there.
She peered back at him as if knowing all along where he was. It was the same wary look she kept sending his way.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Sons of Blackbird Mountain"
Copyright © 2018 Joanne Bischof.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof was a great read. I enjoyed that it had the thread of Norwegian life and the coming to America stitched through it. This girl comes to her late husband’s family of brothers to be their housekeeper and a couple of the brothers are swept up in their feelings for her. One of the brothers has a hearing loss and the story is developed about how that affected his everyday life. Sign language was a needed source for him to be able to communicate. I also found the struggle to rid themselves of self-help and the breaking of bad habits to be stirring. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Three brothers, one widow, and the healing power of family. Aven Norgaard has lost her husband and now has to move from her home in Norway to the rugged hills of Appalachia. Learning her way in a new home among a family she has never met until now, working in a business she previously knew nothing about, is more than a widow should have on her shoulders. However, Aven handles it all with care and grace. The tension among the brothers, though, is thick and it is only a matter of time before it rips them apart. This story is one of those that you feel like you are living with the family. I felt involved in the happenings. I was cheering for the brothers and Aven, hoping for reconciliation. It is a story I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend. *I received this book free from Thomas Nelson and The Fiction Guild in exchange for my honest review. What I have expressed are entirely my own thoughts. I was not compensated in any monetary way.*
I just finished this book. I was a hard book for me to put down. I really enjoyed it, cant wait to read the second book. I like the fact that it is clean and that it references just the right amount of their faith or should I say christian beliefs. The characters just invite you into this book.
This story swept me away to Appalachia and I found myself wanting to stay there. I longed for more time to savor the crispness of fall, the mountain community that embraced Aven, and the farm that housed three unforgettable brothers. This book pulls you right in. Blame it on Thor, I say. Our hero is unlike any I’ve read before and I loved the way the author showed the kind heart behind this silent man. Aven is equally admirable and brings a beautiful mix of strength and gentleness to the story all on her own. Sons of Blackbird Mountain took me places I did not expect. There is real struggle in these pages, but there is also hope and a great deal of healing. Each setting was so vivid and the emotions so raw. The ending brought beautiful closure and much anticipation for the sequel. Without question, this author is one of my favorites. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All views expressed are my honest opinion.
After reading Lady and the Lionheart--which wrecked me in the best possible way--I knew author, Joanne Bischof, would become a must-buy author for me because I knew there was no way she'd disappoint...and I was right!! Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a heart-tugging story that pulled me straight into the rugged hills of the Appalachia and had me emotionally invested in a story where the characters captured my heart immediately. For me, the best part of this story is Thor. *sigh* Ms. Bischof offers a note at the beginning of this story regarding how she incorporated American Sign Language because Thor is deaf and I wasn't sure what to expect. What I experienced was a story where facial expressions, words when they could be spoken, and actions that demonstrated the depth of emotion so powerful it embedded itself on my soul. This story covers difficult subjects but also provides a theme of redemption that is refreshing and a beautiful reflection of God's mercy and grace. The cast of characters are wonderfully enchanting and I cannot deny the shock and dismay my heart felt when a scene brought out the worst in one. I'm SO anxious for the next story in anticipation of knowing redemption is coming and I know it will. Ms. Bischof offers another beautiful story that'll imprint itself on reader's hearts making it impossible to forget and the first one to recommend every single time.
I fell in love. Thor is a big Norwegian sweetheart and stole my heart right away. He is deaf, so things are different for him, and the author tells the story with that perspective and reality. The other two brothers are sweet too, but all three are pretty rough around the edges. Aven, an Irish girl, is widowed by one of their cousins and comes to them at the request of their Aunt. There are many misunderstandings throughout the story, starting right from the beginning. I like the detail - they own a huge apple orchard with varieties I've never heard of but would now like to try. A complex story about discrimination, addiction and rehabilitation. Mystery, danger and lots of love. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Thomas Nelson--FICTION - Netgalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. #SonsOfBlackbirdMountain #NetGalley
The writing was beautiful as I've come to expect from Bischof. The characters were interesting and I enjoyed reading about them. I like the inclusion of a deaf hero and the use of sign language. It really is a beautiful and expressive language that I would love to learn. The ending did feel rushed and that took me out of the story a bit. I am looking forward to the next book but I'm not sure if I'll be able to come to terms with the hero after some of his actions in this book. *I received a copy of this book from netgalley. I was not required to leave a positive review. These opinions are my own.
Absolutely beautiful. I absolutely loved Sons of Blackbird Mountain, the first book I’ve read by Joanne Bischof. It is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Aven Norgaard’s husband died, leaving her a window in Norway. Aven sought out her husband’s family, and found the remaining members in Appalachia. Three brothers, an orchard, and hard cider brought Aven a very different life than what she expected. Deaf and mute brother Thor faced his struggle with the cider he was known for producing, and Aven was faced with a decision she never anticipated - stick by Thor through his struggles, or choose his brother, Haakon. Sons of Blackbird Mountain caused me to both cry and rejoice and is a beautiful story of redemption and healing. I was so sad to reach the end of the book, but was overjoyed when I found out there will be a sequel. I’d like to thank Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to honestly review this book. It is absolutely my pleasure to share my honest opinion.
A story of brothers and Aven giving up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper for three cousins of her husband’s. Thor, we get to know the best with his silent ways, but given to drink. She has beauty, and the brothers desire her hand. The area is different, it is rugged, untamed. How can she decided, without tearing apart the family. Unusual plot, given us more about the brothers. Given ARC by Thomas Nelson for my voluntary review and my honest opinion.
This was a new author to me but I really enjoyed the book. Widow Aven Norgaard is asked to give up her life in Norway and come to America to live this her husband's cousins and help on the farm. She decides to go, but when she gets there Dorothe who invited her has passed away. She chooses to stay and help the brothers with the farm. There are several twists and turns. It's set at the end of the Civil War and is a good read.
5 stars- This had to be one of my favorite books so far this year. Joanne’s books get better and better. The depth of each of the characters in this story was amazing. Sometimes you read a story and you just instantly connect with the characters. They seem as though they are real people. This was just such a story for me. Plus, how could you not fall head over heels for Thor? Each character is unique and carries their own story of pain and their struggles to make the most of the life God has given them. From the first introduction of the Norgaard Brothers you get an instant understanding of the character of each and their place in the family. My heart ached for both Haakon and Thor in so many different ways. They are two extremely different brothers that long to be loved and accepted. And Aven is also an amazing woman. In fact, this story is full of amazing women. I loved reading the story from Thor’s perspective. I applaud the author for introducing us to a deaf character & bringing the hearing world into Thor’s silent one. The author did an amazing job trying to capture life through his eyes. He was able to pick up on things that others missed because he relied on his sense of sight instead of hearing. This allowed him to read more deeply into the true feelings of those around him. This is a heart wrenching story that you will want to keep reading late into the night. I cannot wait to read the next story in this series & find out what happens next. I received a copy of this book for free. I was not required to post a positive review and the views and opinions expressed are my own.
I received a copy of this book from The Fiction Guild, I was not required to give a favorable review. This story was a very touching story. Aven came to America at the request of her late husband's great aunt to live after he passed away. After growing up in the workhouses of Ireland meeting her husband seemed a way to survive. But when he died she seems lost in Norway. So she came with a chance to help what she thought were young boys from the sounding of their aunts letters. We are talking the south after the Civil War so things were just a little different. When she gets there she finds out the the little boys were grown men and the aunt has passed away while she was on her ship. Thor can't hear but his brothers and the people around them can speak sign language. The oldest brother is going to be wed, Thor is the middle son and he youngest brother thinks he has a crush on Aven. But heart is not ready. During a time when families were trying to find their way again. These boys are running a farm. I enjoyed this story very much and can't wait to see what happens next.
Oh. My. Goodness. I could not put this book down. For real. When I had to because other things needed my attention, my thoughts kept going back to it. This will be a re-read many times over. Sons of Blackbird Mountain was one of those stories that I wanted to devour as fast as possible, yet savor the whole way through. I couldn’t get enough. The characters within these pages instantly won my heart. A bit of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” mixed with Bonanza (Jorgan Norgaard is so like Adam Cartwright.. while Haakon and Little Joe share an impulsive boldness..), this story is set in 1890s Virginia. Thor, while gentle and sweet when one takes the time and effort to hear him, struggles with addiction to the hard cider he makes his living from — partially to drink away the pain of his loneliness. Thor is Deaf and for the most part rejected by the outside world, thus leaving him with very few people who care enough to truly know him. Aven finds herself in unexpected circumstances, living with her late husband’s cousins far from her native Europe. As she adjusts to American mountain life with a new-to-her family, she struggles with aligning her affections and her wisdom. This book is full of redemption and healing, love and beauty. All of this in the midst of some very ugly stuff. Because really, it takes letting God lead us through the ugly hard to discover the true beauty that is around us. Joanne Bischof captured here the world of a Deaf man, and she did it in such a way that I found myself imagining the sounds he was imagining, rather than hearing them in my mind. (Do your senses join you in whatever you’re reading, do you see the layout of the house where the characters live or smell the orchard they’re walking through? No? You can ignore me then. I already know I’m strange. ) This book is, to me, a fresh, cold glass of apple cider. Crisp and tangily-spicily, refreshingly perfect. Please read this book.
I'm a little obsessed with author Laura Frantz's frontier romances and I've yet to find much of anything to fill the void in between new books from her. Thankfully, Sons of Blackbird Mountain has reintroduced me to Joanne Bischof. Her ability to craft an achingly delicate and tender love story with the tough pioneering spirit of 19th century Appalachia folk, much like Frantz's stories, shines. I usually shun love triangles in romance for being ridiculous, but Bischof' makes it work. Thor and Haakon's relationships with Aven are believable. Both brothers are very flawed. At its heart, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a love story, but it also touches on racism, alcoholism, and assault. It's not a heavy read, but it's not a light-hearted story by any means. This book is romance that is both heart wrenching and satisfying at its conclusion. Recommended! *I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, and/or authors. I am not required to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.*
An achingly beautiful and bittersweet tale of love, loss, addiction, and family, set in the heart of Appalachia. Young widow Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to live in the Appalachian Mountains with her late husband's kin, helping to care for his cousins. But when she arrives she is surprised to find that the kin in question are not young boys in need of mothering, but strong and strapping men who make and market the finest hard apple cider around. The brothers are different as can be, but they share a special bond forged by long hours working side by side to make their cidery a success. Aven finds herself drawn to the strong yet silent and deaf Thor, who finds much of his identity in working his craft, but also fights the demons in the bottle that make up his family's livelihood. Mountain life is far from easy, with feuds and addictions that run deep, can love have a chance to grow? This is a highly anticipated read for me. I was so excited to read this book as I have vastly enjoyed previous books by Joanne Bischof, and this one did not disappoint. Once you read this book you will be aching to read the next book, as it seems to end with a perfect transition into the next chapter of the family saga. I loved how Ms. Bischof dealt with the different facets of the various relationships between the characters and their varying level of communication with each other, showing the brothers's second nature ease with sign and reading each other's emotions, versus with Aven and the barriers that she faces coming to live with the close knit brothers. The brothers' livelihood is hard cider, and though Thor lives in a silent world it is the cider that is his prison. I liked how Ms. Bischof did an excellent job portraying the dichotomy of the struggles at war within Thor, with layers of complexity that make this book sing a heartbroken yet hopeful mountain melody. A stunningly heartfelt read that speaks most in the quiet moments, with characters that will capture your heart and not let go even after the last page is turned down. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and testimonials in Advertising."
Before I even get into my thoughts on this book I need to share some information that may be triggering for other readers. The Sons of Blackbird Mountain make alcohol, booze, or I've seen the archaic return of the word liquor in general vocabulary. That being said there is also the topics of alcoholism, domestic abuse, racial tension, and even sexual assault in this book. The topics are handled delicately and not overt or in your face while also sharing the true impact of people and families and even community. Alcohol is a strong theme, and overcoming alcohol as well. Don't let that detract from your enjoyment of this book however as it is well rounded and filled with overcoming and hope and faith in God and humanity and family and love. Despite the hardness of life, and let's face it life then has filled with hardships, this book really spoke to me. It wasn't deep in 'religion' or even overt faith. But it was filled with faith. Aven left the only home she had ever know, despite the lifetime of want she had lived, and went to a new country to stay with her husband's family that she had never met. She had faith that life had a purpose and she could build one for herself in America. She crossed an ocean for the love she had been shown by an aunt expecting find a family of young boys. Not what she got. In the slightest. But she chose to stay. She chose a family. And she chose love. It wasn't easy. It wasn't simple. And without faith in herself and faith in family she may have chosen a different path. But she didn't. Eventually, we have to stop running from stuff and run to stuff. And eventually we have to embrace our 'stuff' and find a way through it. Thor had to do that as well. Thor with his language barrier that he allowed to excuse his drinking. Thor with his hardness to outsiders. Hardness due to fear of being embarrassed and fear of being judged. Fear. However, through it all they found themselves. Part of me struggled with this book. I felt lost with keeping everyone straight. It took a little while for me to find my grove with this book. At the same time I fell in love with this book. I've not read this author before but now I can't wait to read all her books. And wait impatiently for the next book in this series. I appreciate authors that take on hard topics, topics that Christians tend to shy away from - or worse condemn- and face them head on. Bischof did that with grace and finesse and compassion. She tackled alcohol. She tackled it in such a way that did not judge but loved. She showed both sides of alcoholism and that is can be overcome. She didn't shy away from a strong main character who happened to be a deaf mute. That same character who also had an issue with hard cider, though he apparently made an amazing hard cider. The same character who chose love. Chose family and faith and tolerance and sobriety and love. At the end of the day, no matter how hard the path or where it takes you. . . choose love. I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by NetGalley. I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.
A Rare Find Rare, indeed. Not because there aren't many good books that comfort, inspire, and renew, but because this one merits a permanent place amongst the treasures in a favorite room. To say that the book tackles alcoholism, deafness, domestic violence, emotional wounds, love, and Godly influence in daily living sounds like too much to take on, and probably would be in the hands of a less gifted author. However, these issues are so well portrayed through the characters of the Sons of Blackbird Mountain that the reader immediately recognizes them as someone they already know. The characters are as familiar to us as if we had been their life-long neighbor or a member of the family. The story's crises are not "handled" as "issues"; rather, the struggles presented are integral parts of the characters' beings and are so humanized that reading Sons is more like watching it than reading it. Ms. Bischof's language skills, her gift, is such that the reader is there. (I took a breath and "smiled out loud" when Thor brought the kitten from his shirt. My eyes widened in anticipation when Haakon came bounding wildly down the hill. I held my breath till the shooting stopped!) This story of the tree Norgaard brothers and of their relationships - with each other, their loves, their friends and neighbors, and their past, move the heart to reflect on one's own sensitive places. Let me say this about the Godly influence of the book. I have read Christian fiction that sometimes reaches to comment about spiritual matters. The reach seems either preachy or insincere, even contrived. The references in Sons are natural; they are the results of constant personal conversations with Him. Aven's thoughts are the particular vehicle through which our own reflections are connected. The spiritual influence here is subtle but sure -and most effective. I am grateful to Nelson Publishing for granting to me the privilege of reading Sons and of expressing my honest opinion.
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a masterfully crafted novel! Exploring the bonds of brotherhood and the resilience of the human spirit, Bischof swept me away on an extraordinary journey. Each of the characters leapt from the page and captured my heart, although none more so than Thor and Aven. Their heartfelt story is richly layered and tempered with tenderness. Beautifully written, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is not to be missed!
This was an interesting story. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but the end result was a pleasant surprise. Although the story is about a young woman who has just arrived from Norway, the language peppered through out is very understandable. There isn't a lot of hard to understand conversations. The story, where we got to know Thor was excellent. Although he couldn't speak, you could still feel and understand what he was trying to say. Then, the following development of friendship with Aven was fun to watch. Equally, the friendship with Haakon was hard to follow, especially towards the end. The story is well written and weaves you along the route of Thor's troubles and the family who joins together to make all things work. Even better, to show a deaf, mute man who is embraced by his family instead of shunned. And even more so, love is just around the corner for him. As for Aven, we watch as she struggles to figure out her place on this farm with the three brothers. I look forward to reading more about the three brothers in future books. I did receive this book via BookLook bloggers. However, all opinions and thoughts are my own. I was not required to leave a review.
I love every minute of this book. The richness of the story and the depth of the characters took my breath away. I couldn’t get enough. I don’t often read a book more than once, but this is one that I loved so much, I probably will. The struggles and battles the characters faced were unique and I felt as if I was fighting with them. This is the first book I have read by Joanne Bischof. It will not be my last. Her style of writing is amazing. I felt transported and my heart became invested in no time. I can’t say enough about this book. When I wasn’t reading I felt as if the story haunted me in the best way possible. I easily fell in love with Thor. I felt my eyes opened to some of the struggles those who can’t hear encounter. This book would be amazing for a book club. I found myself wanting to discuss the story with everyone, and encouraged them to read it. If only there were more books like this. I can not wait until the next book is released. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
There is so much depth to this gorgeous story – even (especially) in the gentle subtleties that Bischof tucks inside her writing, from the way the Norgaard brothers each represent a different facet of the Viking spirit to the way the variety of apples in the orchard itself reminded me of the different dimensions to the story. As tenderly as possible, the author weaves in layers of sibling rivalry, domestic abuse, alcoholism, racism, and greed with even more tenderly drawn layers of hope, healing and courage. This is a story that does not shy away from the harshness of life or sin. But it’s also a story that boldly proclaims freedom for the captive and beauty from the ashes. The cast of engaging characters are authentically imperfect and will break your heart a little before they heal it too. Especially Thor – oh my heart. His lovable giant self, made all the more endearing by the ways he compensates for the fact that he can’t speak (or hear), won me over in the first few pages. In Thor’s case, the absence of speech or sound does not mean the absence of conversation or emotion and the way the author has so lovingly crafted his character speaks louder than any voice could. Even down to subtle details such as the cadence of his sign language, the way he doesn’t realize how loud his movements are, his breathing patterns, etc., his characterization is spot-on and we get a clearer picture of his heart in a way that we might not otherwise. Bischof’s portrayal of Thor as not only Deaf & mute but also an alcoholic sets aside everything we’ve come to expect in our heroes – and I LOVE IT. The depth of his story is all-encompassing, wrapping around you until you can barely breathe from the exquisite beauty of Grace and redemption. I could seriously go on and on and on. I haven’t even talked yet about Aven and her relationship with Thor. I haven’t mentioned Ida or Cora or Jorgen or Haaken or Peter. These characters all captured me in one way or the other, and their combined stories touched me soul-deep. Bischof’s mastery of language, her skill in setting, and her incomparable talent in subtle symbolism are refreshing and poetic. (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)
Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a very special novel. Covering time from August 27, 1890 to the end of November, 1890, we follow the lives of the three Norgaard brothers and the widow of a Norgaard cousin. Aven is a young Irish widow without family of her own, who after a two year mourning period leaves her adopted Norway to travel to Virginia in North America to the Norgaard family farm at the invitation of her deceased husband Benn's aunt Dorthe Norgaard. the family is in flux on Avens' arrival in Virginia. Dorthe has passed in the spring. The brothers are Jorgan, who is to wed a childhood friend in the summer, Thor, born deaf and the talented brewer behind the family's second generation business, the production of hard cider and liquor from their extensive orchards, and the youngest son Haakon, still a little wet behind the ears. Jordan is ecstatic with the idea of his marriage to Fay, whom he hasn't seen since they were children though they have kept in touch by mail. Thor understands that he has a real problem with alcohol but can't seem to quit it when he spends all day producing it, and Haakon is pretty spoiled to their comfortable way of life. There are other's who depend on the income of the farm for their existence, so finding an alternative lifestyle if they abandon the established production of liquor left to them by their father is not an easy one to contemplate. Who would have thought young Aden will be able to help with the family woes? I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Joanne Bischoff, and Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
I loved so much about this book – beginning with the setting. Having lived in, and visited the Appalachian area, I can easily picture this backdrop. The characters are rich and lively (I don’t think I’ve read a book with a deaf character before) and the plot carries a lot of depth and a myriad of themes. There are many things I don’t usually find in Christian fiction, such as alcohol (cider) and such, but it fits so well into the setting, time, and story. Everything is done tastefully without straying from the spiritual aspect of the story. With great pacing, interesting flawed characters, and a spiritual thread throughout, this book put me through a mixture of emotions. The Sons of Blackbird Mountain will appeal to those who enjoy christian and historical fiction. I look forward to reading more stories by Joanne Bischof. I received a complimentary copy from BookLook and NetGalley.
This is the first book I have read by Joanne. My daughter has been reading her books for years and highly recommends them, but for some reason or another, I had never picked one up to read. So, when the opportunity came up to review one, I was excited to take a shot at it. I was hooked right from the start. I really enjoyed her style of writing and couldn't get through the book quick enough, although, I wanted to take my time and savor the plot. Joanne's writing is very creative and I enjoyed her inclusion of Thor's deafness and the use of sign language. I also enjoyed the apple orchard, farm house location, as I live in the country and we have quite a few apple orchards in our area, so it was easy to imagine. I am not really sure which person in the book is my favorite character as each one had their own unique personality and effectively played their role in the story as a whole. I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future and I certainly recommend this one. I was blessed with a copy of this book to read, courtesy of Celebrate Lit and the Publisher. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to review the book positively.
In an epic symphony of story, Sons of Blackbird Mountain invites readers to participate in the rich complexities of love, pain, and triumph alongside the stalwart Norgaards. Every moment vibrates with the sweet and soul-stirring art of a brilliant storyteller. Every emotion echoes from the deepest place where fiction becomes a special reality within our reader hearts and beloved characters become dear forever friends. In all honesty, my words are inadequate for the depth of love, the ferocity of addiction, the strain between hurting brothers, the tension from spiteful neighbors, the isolation, grief, and loss endured. Yet this story gently reminds us of the precious endlessness of hope and strength gifted to us by God's grace which enables us to thrive regardless of our earthly circumstances. I highly recommend this story and expect to frequently pull it down from my favorites bookshelf to savor and reread for years to come. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review. The opinions expressed are my own.