Sons of Blackbird Mountain (A Blackbird Mountain Novel)

Written by Joanne Bischof
Review by Martha Hoffman

Aven Norgaard, the young Irish widow of a Norwegian shipwright who had plucked her from a workhouse years ago, arrives in 1890 Virginia to help care for her husband’s cousins, only to find the children she expected are actually a household of grown men. The brothers make their living brewing and selling hard cider. The two younger brothers, Thor and Haaken, very different in temperament, are both drawn to Aven.

The interesting twist in the story is that Thor is deaf. What’s more, he has assuaged his isolation by drinking too much of the cider that earns the family’s income. The former causes some misunderstandings as Aven settles in, and the latter raises red flags for her because it turns out her husband had also been too fond of drink.

A central theme is the idea of rivalry between the brothers for Aven’s affection, but the reader is not really left in suspense. Thor is clearly a sensitive soul and thoughtful person, and the narrative just has to get through the dramatic but quick (in time at least) process of his drying out. The three brothers seem to have good working relationships with each other and communicate effectively through sign language and other means. Absent a true conflict, the author makes Haaken do something horrible which seems out of character with what we had seen up to then. Finally, there is a chapter that basically seems like the first section of a planned next book.

Other than that awkwardness, and the occasional use of quaint words and phrasing, the love story plays out nicely, and the novel provides an interesting glimpse of the time period and some complex social issues among neighbors in an area still recovering from the Civil War.