cover image The Transformation

The Transformation

Mette Newth / Author, Faith Ingwersen / Translator Farrar Stra

Set during a severe cold spell in Greenland in the mid-1400s, Norwegian author Newth's (The Dark Light) novel competently raises issues of faith and beliefs as it chronicles the coming together of an Inuit woman and a Christian monk. However, an unconvincing love story and a rushed conclusion make for an uneven read. The story alternates between the perspectives of Navarana, the young Inuit woman, and Brendan, a monk whom she discovers dying of starvation in an abandoned church and nurses back to health. He feels conflicted: these people do not look or act like the heathens he has imagined. Readers will be transfixed by descriptions of Navarana's desperate polar bear hunt (the sow becomes her spirit guide), and by the Old One's teachings (he explains that there is no food, for example, due to the Sea Mother, who was angry ""because Her long hair was always filthy and tangled from the sins of Human Beings""). Brendan and Navarana's transition from friends to lovers unfortunately lacks this energy (""When they melted together, they were both aware that it was this they had longed for"") and the conclusion is equally bland. The elders tell Navarana she must travel to the edge of the world and win back the sun from the trickster Raven. But their showdown is brief and rather uneventful. All in all, despite this novel's fascinating premise, something gets lost in translation. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)