Lars Walker is someone who hangs out at this blog fairly often. He is also an accomplished novelist. He has a new novel out entitled Troll Valley.
Lars specializes in tales about Norway, especially the ancient Vikings in their transition from paganism to Christianity. (See West Oversea.) But this one is about Norwegians in Minnesota, settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the farms and in the small towns that would give us the Lake Woebegone cliches. But there is much more to these people than that.
Lars also specializes in hard-hitting Christian critiques of modernity. (See Wolf Time.) For all of the Little House on the Prairie charm of watching the main character Chris Andersen and his family ply their customs in the New World, we see change a-brewing. His father invents a better farm device, leaves the farm for town where he builds a factory and makes a fortune–embodying the industrial revolution with both its good sides and its down sides. I was most taken, though, with his mother, who shows how a certain kind of Pietism can turn to moralism, which can then turn to progressivism, which can then turn against the very Christianity that inspired its beginnings. Mrs. Andersen’s do-gooderism turns her into a crusader for prohibition and then for the women’s suffrage and then for a “moral progress” that has no room for the Bible and that wreaks havoc in her family.
And Lars also specializes in writing about the strange denizens of Scandinavian myth, legend, and folklore. (See The Year of the Warrior.) The thing about Chris Anderson is that, as he struggles with his withered arm and his self-doubts, he sees elvish creatures from a parallel world. And he is regularly visited by his fairy godmother, who herself yearns for baptism and the Christian faith. All of these fantasy elements are going on at the same time as the realistic story and as a sort of commentary on what is happening. One critic has called what Lars is doing “Christian magical realism,” which is a good description, a reference to the quite interesting style pioneered by Latin American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (And it’s about time that contemporary Christian authors go beyond formula fiction to experiment with more sophisticated styles and literary effects.)
Another contemporary feature of this novel is that it is being published solely as an e-book, which means too that it costs a mere $2.99. So if you have a Kindle or the equivalent, download Troll Valley.