Thursday, September 13, 2018

Book Review - Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joane Bischof

Book Synopsis
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.

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My Review
In 1890, young widow Aven Norgaard travels from Norway to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia to live with her late husband's relatives.  Life on Blackbird Mountain is very different from anything she has experienced.   The household consists of three brothers.  The two youngest brothers - very different men - both develop a romantic interest in Aven.  As she settles into life in Appalachia, she also sorts through her feelings about Thor and Haakon.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a unique historical novel set in a small Appalachian community.  The setting is so beautifully described and the book is so immersive.  I found myself thinking about Blackbird Mountain and the people who lived there in between reading times.  

Aven is a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist -- strong, brave, and kind.  It took tremendous courage for her to travel from Norway to an unknown home in Virginia, and to settle in smoothly there.  She is courted by two men in the family.  Haakon is young and impetuous, handsome and charming.  Thor is brooding and strong, with an unfortunate weakness for the hard cider that the Norgaard family produces on their farm.  

Thor is also deaf and mute.  The details of his life and how he communicates (and struggles to communicate at times) were both fascinating and moving.  I especially found his memories of life at a school for the deaf as a young man so sad.  The early school he went to was overseen by Alexander Graham Bell.  Bell did not believe that deaf children should sign at all, and they even had to wear mitts so they would be forced to lip read and speak.

I loved the daily details of life on the mountain -- like the first time Aven tried to swim in the pond on the mountain, the way Aven sewed clothes from fabric found in the farm outbuildings, and cooking on the farm.  

I especially loved the slow courtship between Aven and Thor.  I will admit to a bit of a book crush on Thor.  I loved the way so much of their courtship was written and passed back and forth in notes.  The scenes of Thor learning to dance, despite not hearing music, were amazing.

One of my favorite novels is Christy by Catherine Marshall (set in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee, 1910's) and I felt a real kinship between that book and Sons of Blackbird Mountain.  The plots and characters were very different, but there was a similar beauty in the simplicity of mountain life, and a quiet strength from faith.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is my favorite review read of 2018.  It is such a lovely book, and I am delighted to learn that there will be a sequel.   I cannot recommend this novel highly enough for fans of historical fiction.  It is a joy to live in the world of Blackbird Mountain as you read this book.

Author Bio
A Christy and Carol Award winner, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.


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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Reviews.