Book review: A lyrical debut novel

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Vicki Gundrum
Denver, Colo.

Rebecca Snow’s debut novel Glassmusic is lovely to read, lyrical as the songs the blind father plays in the story on water-filled glasses. The novel is set in 1920s Norway from a village girl’s point of view. Ingrid is the youngest daughter of Oskar Solheim, a traveling musician and minister. The rural setting, community, and family dynamics create a powerful presence against which Ingrid must struggle to become her own person. Both good and evil play disturbing parts. The novel is not a traditional morality tale—it portrays an astute perspective of present-day empathy, set back in time.

Snow’s mother immigrated as a young child from Norway to Ballard in 1948. Glassmusic is very loosely based on Snow’s family history in Norway. Her great-grandfather, Matias Orheim, received the king’s gold medal of merit for his work as a blind musician, composer, writer, and minister. He inspired the character Oskar Solheim, and Ingrid is based largely on Snow’s grandmother. As Snow clarifies in her author’s note, however, all the characters along with the story are a work of fiction with hints of true history here and there.

The simplicity of the language in the novel is wonderful, appropriately lacking American idioms and typical phrasings. The dusting of Norwegian words are comprehensible in context and add to the authenticity of a different time and place, as do the mentions of Ibsen, Rilke, and trolls. The book is a quick and beautiful read, with good doses of humor, delight, and long-lasting resonance.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 13, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.