When We Were Vikings is an unusual book. For my personal preference, I give it a 3-star rating. The story is narrated by Zelda, a 21-year-old high-functioning young woman who was born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. Her father left home when she was a baby. After her mother died from cancer, she and her brilliant, but thuggish brother, Gert go to live with their uncle. Uncle Richard is truly a terrible person, a Grendel. Desperate to get away from him, Gert borrows money from a thug, who is a Villian. He and Zelda are able to get their own apartment, but a great deal of trouble comes from having to repay the debt.
Zelda knows she is different, and that she is slower to process things. She has help from a kind psychologist and her brother’s on-again-off-again girlfriend. She has friends at a local community center, including a boyfriend, who is not as high functioning as Zelda. She copes by following rules and also by following a Code of Vikings, where courage, honor, heroism and being loyal to her tribe are the most important things. However, life throws things at her that would be difficult for anyone to handle. “Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.”
While it seems that Zelda is dependent on others, especially her brother, she proves that she can be a legend in her own right.
Would I recommend this book? It depends on who is asking. Teenagers: Absolutely not. My book club: Absolutely Not. There is too much filthy language, sexual situations, including sex between mentally disadvantaged people, and attempted rape. There is also violence and a strong criminal element. I felt very uncomfortable, especially with the constant expletives. But I can see how many people will enjoy the story of Zelda, her quirkiness, and her ability to deal with issues by drawing upon her Viking strength. The relationship between Zelda and Gert is particularly interesting. The ending is uplifting and hopeful.
Thank you to NetGalley and to Gallery Books for my Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on January 28, 2020.
And now for my Recipe Recommendation:
Legendary Swedish Meatballs
For the meatballs:
½ pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon parsley chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
⅛ teaspoon Pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
For the gravy:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups beef broth
3/4 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)
16 ounces wide egg noodles
To make the meatballs: Combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, minced garlic, pepper, salt, and egg. Roll 20 small meatballs. In a large skillet[/url] heat olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
To make the gravy: Melt butter in the skillet. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in beef broth and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in sour cream; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the meatballs to the mixture and let simmer for 10 minutes.
While the meatballs and gravy simmer, cook egg noodles according to package directions. Divide noodles evenly on plates and top with meatballs and gravy. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.