A Breath of Hope (Under Northern Skies)

Written by Lauraine Snelling
Review by Ellen Jaquette

Set in the early 20th century, this inspirational tale follows Nilda, a young Norwegian woman making her way to the United States, and her sister-in-law, Signe, who is already managing her own complicated life in the north woods of Minnesota. When the families reunite, both women come together to find inspiration and support in their local church, their friendship, and the new opportunities presented in their adopted country. Domestic details abound, filling the pages with historic flavor, and the happy and inspirational content make for a soothing read. However, life is not always easy: Nilda must overcome obstacles in her home country before she sets sail for her new home, and after her arrival a miserly relative in Minnesota prevents both women from fully connecting with their new neighbors. These conflicts are quickly resolved, and not persuasively so. The main villain, their Uncle Einar, has no redemptive arc, which feels at odds with the otherwise inspirational narrative. Such opportunities are perhaps intentionally swept aside to provide a narrative lighter on tension but abundant with warm images of family and the immigrant experience in rural Minnesota. A comforting read.