by Autumn Fehr. Published in The Express Weekly News, Thursday, July 28, 2022 Page 22.
Many stories have come out of past and present pandemic times.
When going through challenging times like these, there is much we can learn by how we cope with them and how we change from them.
On June 15, Glenn Sigurdson released My Viking Lady of the Lake, a collection inspired by the pandemic. This collection is a companion to his novel Vikings on a Prairie Ocean, which was released in 2014
It’s not a sequel, but they ﬂow together and support each other, said Sigurdson.
He has been working on the stories for this novel since 2014, and even before that, making them complete over the years.
“The notion of writing a major signature novel around Valgerdur and Stefan attracted me, and when I did that, it was about 25,000 words so I thought maybe I can pull all these stories I’ve been writing together, consolidate them and create an eBook,” said Sigurdson.
Through his novel, Sigurdson wanted to bring to life how people deal with challenges, which is certainly prevalent to the pandemic times our world is still going through.
“It’s stories about relationships, reconciliation and ordinary people struggling, and they reﬂect on fundamental values about what’s important when you are working through a pandemic. What do I really value in life? And how do I see the world through a diﬀerent lens when I’ve gone through my own form of rethinking as a result of forces that are so big that I can’t control them,” said Sigurdson.
As the COVID pandemic continued, Sigurdson said he often thought of his great-grandparents, Stefan and Valgerdur Sigurdson. They, too, had gone through challenges due to illness when they lost four children in the early years of the 1900s due to tuberculosis, which could have been considered a pandemic in and of itself.
The novel is written in a dramatic format and ﬁctionalized based on true events. It’s a series of scenes that unfold around a central story, Sigurdson said.
“Through my family, I’m able to tell a bigger story than just the story of my family. It’s really the story of ﬁshing on Lake Winnipeg, its evolution — how it was made possible for this community of people to survive in Canada when they ﬁrst arrived and were able to build an economy around it; some of the challenges of getting that going and some of the great personalities that peopled that ﬁshery and their integration into a world where they had to work with Indigenous peoples and other nationalities,” he said.
As we all can now say we have been through a pandemic and are still going through one, we can relate to the stories of the characters, Stefan and Valgerdur Sigurdson within Sigurdson’s novel. He illuminates their struggles and challenges set in a time before our own.
“Like the uncertainly we faced in these times, in their lives it was tuberculosis that was the great silent killer,” said Sigurdson.
Sigurdson’s story begins in 1905 with Johannes Sigurdsson, 17, in Hnausa, 18 miles north of Gimli.
At this time, his parents are watching him fade away from tuberculosis, just as they had seen happen to their eight-year-old son Gudrun a year before and their three-year-old son Stefan ﬁve years before that.
“The family is struggling with these last hours and days that they are with him. He was the oldest of the boys and, obviously, a lot of promise for the future rested in him,” said Sigurdson.
Initially, readers join Sigurdson as a boy, meeting his family and taking in moments of memory throughout his life, as the narration of the journey continues to introduce the reader to the context where the stories are set. Throughout the story, readers are immersed in the tragedy and events as they reﬂect on how they had a hand in shaping their lives.
“They ﬂashback in terms of their respective lives and the decisions they made to come from Iceland to Canada,” said Sigurdson.
Sigurdson builds their whole life story into these moments, and he forward casts in the ﬁnal part of the story to show the life that continues to evolve after 1910 forward through Valgerdur’s life until she died in 1950. My Viking Lady of the Lake is a complex yet fulﬁlling story that can teach everyone who reads it something new about how to deal with challenges. “It’s really a bigger story about the emergence of the Icelandic community in Canada and Manitoba, which is the centre of the Icelandic community in terms of its longstanding identity across North America,” said Sigurdson.
For more information on the book, and Sigurdson’s other published works, such as the companion novel Vikings on a Prairie Ocean, visit www.vikingsonaprairieocean.com.
The eBook, My Viking Lady of the Lake is available on Amazon Canada, Rakuten Kobo, Amazon USA and Barnes & Noble.