The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit

Lori Erickson. Westminster John Knox, $18 trade paper (234p) ISBN 978-0-664-26703-2

In this shrewd memoir, Erickson (Holy Rover) details how researching her Norwegian American heritage led to deep personal reflection. The modern ability to investigate one’s ancestry using DNA, she argues, can be about more than just biology: “We’re searching for roots and a story that can tie together the disparate parts of our lives and help us form our identities.” With a light hand, Erickson invites readers to follow her lead and take some liberties in the search for one’s “spiritual DNA.” She shares stories of visiting excavation sites, museums, and even a Viking reenactment in a quest to reclaim her spiritual heritage. Alongside anecdotes of Erickson finding her roots both in her Iowa hometown (founded by Norwegian immigrants) and by tracing her heritage back to Europe, she includes brief histories of the Vikings, with special attention paid to the explorers Leif Eriksson (an early if loose convert to Christianity) and his admirable sister-in-law Gudrid the Far Traveler (the author’s “adopted foremother”). While Erickson’s approach is heartfelt, her contention that “in the modern world... we’re no longer tied to our ancestral identities” will strike some as rather curious. Readers may find themselves ordering their own DNA testing kit upon finishing this. [em](Aug.) [/em]
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