“Mette Iversdatter’s window was a porthole on the winter sky.” With this spare, vivid image, Larry Woiwode brings us into the simple and anxious rhythms of life for a Norwegian farm girl in the first decade of the twentieth century. Christmas Eve falls in the midst of deprivation as Mette’s family prepares to journey to her grandparents’ farm for Christmas. When her father fails to bag a big deer on the journey, they arrive, like everyone else, almost empty-handed. Yet despite frustration and disappointment, this extended family combines their meager resources to create an unexpected marvel of a meal that transforms the family’s Christmas.
Sharply observed and crisply written, Woiwode’s story throbs with truths known to human hearts in any century. He carefully renders the hesitant hopes of a child, the aching disappointments and steady perseverance of her elders, and the surprise of beauty and joy. That prayers may yet be answered—that the provision may be greater even than the promise—is a truth for Christmas and always.
Novelist Woiwode tells a small tale, timeless as a folktale or myth, in his distinctive voice. An extended family in rural Norway gathers for Christmas in the first decade of the 20th century. Times have been hard, and little can be brought to the family celebration. But flour and milk from one visitor, sugar from another, and potatoes from a third make a rich treat for the family. This is a folksy departure from the standard holiday fare, one that illuminates Norwegian cultural roots, family ways, and the generous hope that is the gift of Christmas. All ages.