When We Were Vikings

Scout: Gallery. Jan. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781982126766. pap. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781982126780. F
DEBUT In MacDonald’s debut novel, we meet 21-year-old Zelda, who knows everything about Vikings—their lifestyle, legends, and language. Zelda was born on the fetal alcohol spectrum; as with Frankie Walters in Pauline Holdstock’s Here I Am and Christopher John Francis Boone in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, her story is told solely from the perspective of a narrator with special needs. To give structure to her life, Zelda follows rules and makes lists, but she discovers that life can be chaotic and complicated. Her brother, Gert, does his best to take care of and protect her even though he has problems of his own. MacDonald covers very difficult terrain: poverty, lack of health care, violence, child abuse, abandonment, and alcoholism. Yet Zelda prevails and becomes a hero in her own “legend.” With her strong personality and a support system known as her “tribe,” she makes the difficult journey toward independence.
VERDICT In this well-written and compelling novel, MacDonald conveys Zelda’s particular challenges and succeeds in bringing her to life.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing