October 16 – Minnesota Book Award winning writers Wendy Webb and Allen Eskens will launch their new fiction at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 18 at the Wescott Library, 2340 Wescott Road, Eagan. Registration recommended at: dakotacountylibrary.libcal.com/event/8159382.
“Guardians of Metsan Valo” by Wendy Webb (Lake Union Publishing, $ 14.95),
“It’s not just a folk tale,” she continued, raising her eyebrows. “This is our family’s story, as far as we can reach it. Calder and Kaija got married. They are our ancestors, as alive in hearts today as they were in ancient times. . Some of you sitting here today do not see the point of the story. For others, it has reached your heart. Kaija and Calder live in you. ”
– Extract from “The Guardians of Metsan Valo
Annalize Halla is back in Metsan Valo, a fortress-like house on an island in Lake Superior. The name means Forest Light in Finnish. Built by Anni’s great-grandparents, the house belonged to her grandmother, Mummo, who has just died. Anni and her twin brother, Theo, grew up listening to their grandmother tell stories about the vaki, little people, spirits and demons that live in the nearby woods.
Anni has lived in Paris for 10 years, and left the teacher with whom she shared an apartment. Coming back to Metsan Valo was like coming home to your childhood. Her family comes together to read her grandmother’s will, including Arden, Anni and Theo’s otherworldly mother, and their mother’s sister, Gloria, who introduces them to Charles, a dapper man who seems suspicious from the start.
Almost as soon as everyone has gathered, strange things start to happen to Anni, the new mistress of Metsan Valo, according to her grandmother’s will. There are rustles and sounds in the woods, Anni and Theo are attacked by a swarm of fireflies, and Anni is sure she sees a procession of moaning ghosts flying through her window.
Meri, the longtime housekeeper of the house, explains that when a new mistress takes over the old house, it disturbs the little people, who fear they will be forgotten. She warns Anni that preying on the spirits of Metsan Valo is a daunting task, as Anni learns on a rainy and windy night when she must appease them.
But real life overshadows old stories when Arden’s house is vandalized and nearly drowned, and Gloria is in a car accident. Who wants the sisters dead, and why?
While there are some Gothic scenes from Wendy Webb here, it’s a sweeter book than her predecessors, including “The End of Temperance Dare” and “The Tale of Halcyon Crane,” Minnesota Book Award winners. The storytelling is quieter and she has never written more lush about nature. There is also more emphasis on what binds a family. Perhaps this is because, as Webb writes in his acknowledgments, both of his maternal grandparents were Finnish “and maybe the idea was to connect with (his mother’s) legacy”.
When Webb learned that JRR Tolkien was inspired by “Lord of the Rings” from the Finnish epic poem Kalevela, she had never heard that Tolkien had learned the Finnish language in order to read the poem in its original form.
As Webb researched Finnish tales and legends, she discovered that while the Vikings attacked and looted, they left the Finns alone. “The Finns were seen as wizards and witches, the keepers of ancient knowledge, able to control the air and water and the animals around them,” writes Webb. She thought he was a cool legend and, like writers do, she wondered if it was real.
“The Guardians of Metsan Valo” is her response to readers. .
Allen Eskens’ “The Stolen Hours” (Mulholland / Little, Brown books, $ 28)
Allen Eskens says his seven books, including Minnesota Book Award winner “The Heavens May Fall”, are not a series but rather “character arcs that revolve around a small community.”
In “The Stolen Hours” its protagonist is Lila Nash, who is about to land the job of her dreams as an attorney working for the Hennepin County District Attorney and she is happy with her boyfriend, Joe Talbert. But when a woman is pulled from the Mississippi River, barely alive, things get personal and Lila must confront her own dark past. Police believe the woman’s assailant is a local photographer, but he saw it coming and prepared carefully, much to Lila’s dismay. She’s determined to put the guy behind bars, but she’s in a race against an evil mastermind.
Lila was Talbert’s girlfriend in Eskens’ first novel, “The Life We Bury”, and in “The Shadows We Hide”. The new book takes Lila back to the night she was 18 and survived a violent attack. Will the ghosts of her past destroy her?
Kirkus Reviews called the book “a compelling legal thriller that is also an in-depth study of female victimization and male privilege.”