Freya Morris overhears "a scrap of conversation" at her grandmother's 100th birthday party and realizes that her troubled but beloved aunt Birdie had once had a child. With her parents and her aunt all dead, and her grandmother undoubtedly approaching the end of her own life, Freya becomes obsessed with tracking down the cousin that must have been given up for adoption before she was born.
Written as if it were a letter, a collection of memories and family history to give to the cousin once found, Christina Sunley's The Tricking of Freya introduces the reader to a community of Icelandic emigrants who settle in Manitoba after the eruption of the volcano Askja poisons their farmland with lava. Some adapt quickly to the ways of their new land, while others work to pass down the Icelandic language, traditions and myths to the generations that follow.
Freya's aunt Birdie is one of the latter. Like her father Olafur before her, Birdie is a poet, and she devotes much time during Freya's summer visits to Canada (the rest of the year she lives in boring suburban Connecticut) to instructing her niece in ancient sagas, Norse mythology, and the complexities of Icelandic grammar. Birdie is also strikingly bipolar, and because of her mood swings, Freya is often unsure whether or not she's in her aunt's good graces.
During a manic upsurge the summer Freya is 13, Birdie sets off to Iceland with Freya in tow to search for some family letters. What happens there, and what Birdie does once back in Manitoba, will cause Freya to turn her back on her family and her heritage for years to come. It will take her search for the long-lost cousin to get her to make a return trip to Iceland.
This was supposed to be the summer that we took a family vacation to Iceland, but of course our trip has had to be postponed since L. is losing his job. The Tricking of Freya has really intensified my desire to make the trip once our finances improve; I loved Sunley's descriptions of the glaciers and lava fields and ice caves.
I'll have to console myself in the meantime reading more about the mythology and history of this fabulous land.