The Icelandic Roots Book Club for Thursday, March 2, 2023, will feature Prophetic Dreams: a Curse or a Legacy with author Alfreða Jonsdottir.
By Heather Goodman Lytwyn
Prophetic Dreams: a Curse or a Legacy was published in 2022 and listed in our 3rd Annual Icelandic Roots Book Flood in December of the same year. The entire book is beautifully written, and the storyline is smoothly integrated with believable characters and dialogue. But it was the description of the four dreams and the seer’s interpretation of them that kept me turning the pages to see whether or not any of the prophecies would come true. A suspenseful novel from cover to cover, told by a very gifted storyteller.
This is Alfreða Jonsdottir’s third novel. The protagonist, Guðrun Osvifsdottir, is a strong, principled woman who is an inspiring role model for women of all ages. At every challenge in her life, Guꝺrun finds the strength to act on her convictions by looking inwardly and reminding herself time and again, “More power to the woman who has herself in her own power.”
One of the great things about reading Prophetic Dreams is that you travel back in time to the tenth century, and it all seems so vivid. Since Icelandic Roots members have a shared interest in learning more about our history, this story is guaranteed to be a hit. I have always joked that I am a lazy historian because I much prefer historical fiction to a history textbook. The writer who can take us back to the realities of another century is both a historian and an entertainer. Alfreða has put her research skills and imagination to good use in creating characters we care about and engrossing events.
Alfreða enhances our understanding with the inclusion of a Glossary of Icelandic words which are embedded occasionally into the dialogue with the use of italics. In addition, the context of an Icelandic word often reveals even to the “English only” reader what the meaning most likely is, a testament to her skill as a writer and, at the same time, making the story more authentic. Following the Glossary is a List of Characters with concise descriptions. This helps the reader to remember each person’s part in the story over the course of Guðrun’s lifetime. I recommend reading the list before you begin the book, as it gives you a preview of the story's developments.
Born and raised in a farming community in Lundar, Manitoba, Alfreða is a graduate of SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) with Honours in Library and Information Management. Both Alfreꝺa’s maternal and paternal grandparents and great-grandparents were immigrants from Iceland. Like so many of our ancestors, this decision was not easy but was influenced by years of harsh weather, poor socio-economic conditions, rampant illness, and the eruption of the Askja volcano in 1875. These ancestors could never have predicted that in the twenty-first century, their granddaughter would have continued the tradition of the Icelandic Sagas through her own creative writing.
Our March book club selection was preceded by Alfreða’s two other successful historical fantasy novels: Melkorka: The Thrall Prinsessa’s Saga and A Viking Queen’s Legacy. If you google Alfreða Jonsdottir, you will find reviews of her books. One link goes to her professional Facebook page which includes a short video posted on May 7, 2021, where she talks about her first book and how it came about. You can also find her website here.
Interestingly, it was never Alfreða’s intention to become a published author. It all began with the post-retirement idea to write a short story to share with her granddaughters. The goal was to make them more acquainted with their Icelandic heritage and to teach them about the inspiring women of the Laxdæla Saga. That modest goal changed when Alfreða asked her neighbour, Sandy, to proofread the story for her to see if it made sense. This resulted in Sandy’s enthusiastic insistence that it was terrific and that Alfreða absolutely had to write more!
This is not a surprising reaction because this masterful storyteller makes the reader curious to know how the story will evolve. Her imagination makes the story unfold effortlessly, and her characters and dialogue all ring true –they are all real and believable, The characters have both good and bad qualities – no one is perfectly evil or a saint. No writer can do this well unless she too understands the complexities that make up everyone’s character. I believe that when you reach the last page of Prophetic Dreams: a Curse or a Legacy, you will be echoing Sandy’s words and encouraging Alfreða to please, write more!