Preus’s artful prose moves through a series of dreamscapes, blending fairy tales and history in ways so divine, I often found myself completely breathless.
Now, lest you think me a pushover, Dear Reader, let me assure you that my children frequently beg me to read “just one more chapter.” They are often denied this heady delight, but West of the Moon had me so transfixed I did not wish to stop.
Not even when my voice started to go. Not even when my throat began to hurt.
At the center of the tale is an incredible Norwegian girl named Astri. She’s no perfect heroine, which is precisely what makes her lovable to me. I was an imperfect child. Probably, you were an imperfect child too. Imperfect children need to believe they can be the heroes and heroines of their own lives, and that’s exactly what Astri shows them they can do.
“Now I know how much I’m worth: not as much as Jesus, who I’m told was sold for thirty pieces of silver. I am worth two silver coins and a haunch of goat.”
That’s right, young Astri is sold for next to nothing to a cruel goat farmer who treats her like a slave, but when he decides she must also become his bride, she flees, setting off with her little sister, Greta, in search of their father in America.
It’s a story of immigration and liberation; it’s a perfect quilt of many different tales. Real historical facts are stitched together in such an artful fashion that by the time my children and I became aware we were learning history, we were positively giddy with the fact!
Armed with only her wits, a troll treasure, a black book of dark spells, and a hairbrush that just might be magic, Astri and her sister move through a world that is both like a fever and a dream.
This is one character that refuses to accept her miserable lot in life, and – like any real girl – Astri is willing to do what it takes to escape hardship and abuse. She lies, she steals, she tangles with Death himself, and, of course, she comes out the winner.
This is a story that will stay with me a very long time.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale? What is it? What makes it appealing to you?