Sometimes all you can do is go to bed + “Wolf Winter” by Cecilia Ekbäck

Thursday. Yesterday. The day that had to end eventually.

I woke up EXHAUSTED after a night of sleep ruined by worry (no reason, just those middle of the night worries) and dogs needing to be in my space in bed in between their need to be up and down (maybe they have their own worries?). I got the girls on their buses (actually, Libby mostly gets herself on her bus), but the that was the highlight of the day.

Five minutes before Katy’s bus got there, I realized I forgot to make her lunch. Luckily, this isn’t tough, but still–five minutes.

After she got on the bus (yes, we made it), I went back to sleep for about an hour. I dreamed that I dropped and broke my phone, and then woke up to a text from Verizon telling me that I had cancelled the insurance on my phone (which we did purposely, and I knew about. Just weird timing, I guess).

AND I never got any coffee.

Here are a few of the other crazy things that happened:

-Work was crazy busy, and I just couldn’t get ahead. I was rushing to meet my deadline until the last minute!


-The 12 year-old decided that Thursday would be the day to begin being an emotional teen (it started Wednesday night). Tears over NOTHING, screaming, angry, and then apologetic, all within a 20-minute span. I think there is a boy involved, but she’s not ready to spill, and I’m not ready to pry.

-Lots of barking dogs in the neighborhood. It was a warmer day, which means they’re all out, and I get to hear them all, all day. I LOVE dogs, but there are some barks that are more nerve wracking than others.

And I was tired. And grumpy. Especially by the end of the day. So, when I walked into my younger daughter’s room for the bedtime taking of electronics, the smell that assaulted me was unnecessary icing on the cake.

Somehow, at some point, that daughter of mine had snuck (sneaked) a cup of milk to her room. Like a last week. And guess what? The ONE swallow that was left in the cup was stinking up her room, with the noxious smell that only sour milk can emit.

It. Was. Horrible.

I took it down to the kitchen, spreading the smell through the whole house.

After ridding the house of the offending cup, and lighting a candle to rid it of the offending smell, I did the only thing you can do at the end of a long and longer day–I went to bed.

And my bed has never felt, or smelled, so good.

Okay, onto my thoughts on  Wolf Winter by Cecelia Ekbäck.

Late autumn this year had violence in her hair, angry crimson, orange, and yellow. The trees wrestled to free themselves of their cloaks, crumpled up their old leaves and threw them straight out into the string wind rather than just let them fall to the ground. Dry leaves ran across the ground with the crackle of fire.

The Premise

In 1717, Maj, her husband Jan-Erik, and their daughters Frederika and Marit leave their native Finland coast for Swedish Lapland. Jan-Erik has become frightened of the sea, and this creates problems for a fisherman. After a trade with a family member, the family settles into the harsh, unforgiving, but very beautiful Lapland.

Not long after arriving, teenage Frederika stumbles upon a body while herding goats on the mountain that overlooks their valley. The others in their valley tell her that it is Eriksson, and dismiss his death as a wolf attack. Maj, however, believes the wounds point to something different, and the disinterest in his death as well as the fate of his widow and children compel her to investigate further.

When winter arrives in Lapland, Jan-Erik is forced to travel to find work, and Maj struggles to hold her small family together during the “wolf winter,” the most bitter winter in memory. The settler’s are forced to come together, and Maj’s inquiries seem to be making people nervous.

As she starts to wade through the ins and outs of the valley and the nearest village, the mystery starts to take shape, and Maj comes to understand the politics of the valley a little better, even while they make her uneasy with her neighbors.

While also trying to understand her new surroundings, Frederika starts to understand that she has a gift, one that she doesn’t quite understand or want, but that she also can’t ignore. With the help of the native Laplanders, she may be able to use her gift, or get rid of it all together.

An 18th century winter in Swedish Lapland is grim and desolate, and Maj must do it with only her two daughters to help her, all while refusing to let go of the death of a man she didn’t know. Can they make it through a dark winter with no one to rely on? That is the real mystery.

My Thoughts

Written perfectly for the landscape, Ekbäck uses bleak, stark language to highlight the harshness of Lapland’s winter and the family’s plight in a new world.

I love the strong female characters, the big mystery, the history, and even the touch of magical in Frederika. Using the landscape as it’s own character, Ekbäck’s  Wolf Winter is a dark tale with a lot going on. Sometime too much.

I think Ekbäck tells a great story, and I love the mystery. But the ins and outs of Sweden, The Swedish church, the village, the valley, and the Laplanders was a bit confusing. Throw in severe frostbite, pedophilia, cows, wolves, social climbing, magic, and witches, and it’s a bit overwhelming.

Although at times I got lost, the mystery was wonderful, and the historical element is great. And the strong females, of course.

This is a great winter book, and I wish I had been sitting by the fire while I read it. The complexity of the story lends itself to an abundance of time to reflect and process. The austerity of the land and grim outlook of life in  Lapland will make you look around at your fireplace, or your heater, and your good roof and say “Thank Goodness!!”

I give this book 3.5 stars. Take one element out and it would probably have at least another half a star.


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