cover image God's Mercy

God's Mercy

Kerstin Ekman, , trans. from the Swedish by Linda Schenck. . Univ. of Nebraska, $22.95 (389pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-2458-2

In the first of Swedish novelist Ekman's trilogy, a young urban midwife moves to the remote Svartattnet, where she struggles to understand the culture of the Sami Lapp reindeer herders. Narrator Risten introduces readers to her adoptive mother, Hillevi Klarin, who grew up with Hillevi's aunt and uncle. Though the aunt considers Hillevi's passion for midwifery to be a career beneath her, Hillevi leaves Uppsala in 1916 and moves to the northern wilderness. One night, Hillevi is summoned to the isolated village of Lubben to deliver a baby she suspects is the result of abuse. When she arrives, she realizes she is in over her head. When Elis, a boy from Lubben, follows Hillevi back to her home, he sets in motion an unexpected chain of events that will haunt her for years. Hillevi also struggles to fit into the tight-knit Lapp community and begins to understand the difficulties of being an outsider. Ekman (A City of Light ) describes everything with an unflinching eye, from tuberculosis to the particulars of sex and birth, and the harsh beauty of the Swedish landscape. (July)