WOLF WINTER by Cecilia Ekbäck -- "skillfully spans genres...breathtaking... beautifully haunting"
While I generally don’t favor mysteries, I suppose, at its heart, this book is a who-done-it. And while the reader is left with a multitude of potential suspects (and lots of conjecture among the characters as to who – or what – is responsible), the novel is so much more: it’s literary historical fiction with breathtaking natural descriptions; it’s character-driven fiction as three point-of-view characters reveal their deep personal struggles and growth; and it also contains supernatural elements. The book questions the role of the church, of loyalty, fear – all the things that made survival for settlers at Blackasen Mountain so very trying.
I am a fan of any author who can conjure nature as a character, and Ekback does this in spades. One example of the beautifully haunting landscape imagery:
The snow is leaving. The mounds sink and settle, pour out and down. It’s already down to its first layers: coarse and grainy, so transparent the ground is almost visible right through. The river tries to break through her lock. She groans. Down by her outflow she begins to gnaw at the lake ice. Then she pushes through with a scream….
The river scrambles its banks. The lake swallows its shores. Water gushes into the forest until the trees are knee-deep. And now the marsh too begins to bubble as she thaws.
Fans of Burial Rites (which I felt was more character-driven – and was one of my favorite novels of all time) will enjoy this book, even with its mystery components. In fact, I think WOLF WINTER by Cecilia Ekbäck skillfully spans genres and will impress readers of both commercial fiction and literary.
There are many symbolic and thematic considerations within the pages of this novel: about the weight of carrying ghosts from the past, about the weight of love, ambition, tradition, community and duty to country and church, as well as to self. It really was a lovely read with a lot of surprising twists and turns that will have me thinking for quite some time.