The End of Drum-Time

Holt. Jan. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9781250822901. $28.99. F
Set in 1850s Sweden above the Arctic circle, Pylväinen’s second novel (after We Sinners) is the multilayered story of families dependent on the reindeer herds, struggling against extreme elements, and torn by the strife between Russia and its neighbors. Lutheran minister Lars Levi has been zealously preaching Christianity in a small village for over 20 years. His religious fervor and popularity are slowly destroying the Sámi people Indigenous to the region, many of whom are still practicing the old ways, but he is also at odds with mean-spirited local authority Frans Lindstrom. After transferring Lars to a lonely outpost and taking over his church, Frans starts collecting debts from all who owe money to his nephew Henrik’s general store. Badly in debt to Frans, Henrik meekly does his uncle’s bidding. Meanwhile, Lars’s daughter Willa impetuously runs off with her lover, Sámi herder Ivvar, whose father has been relocated to become an itinerant preacher and leaves Ivvar to manage their herd alone. No one expects Tsar Nicholas to close the Russian border over fishing rights, but the reindeer don’t stop grazing at the border, leading to bloody confrontation.
VERDICT Even as the distinctive time period and locale set apart this complex saga of birth, death, love, and broken hearts, Pylväinen deftly shows how people can become mired in poverty and personal entanglements any time, any place.
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