Cover Image: Becoming Leidah

Becoming Leidah

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Member Reviews

In a word this book was compelling. Weaving a story with so many elements could get muddled and yet I did not find that to be the case. Grierson managed to balance old and new, fantasy and reality quite well! 

Norse mythology plays strongly within this book and that’s its biggest strength for me… although how accurate things were I cannot say as I don’t actually know much beyond the popular stories! 

All the decisions felt purposeful, back and forth between now and memories can be tedious and confusing but that was not the case with this book at all. It worked beautifully!

Hauntingly beautiful!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy in exchange of an honest review!
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Becoming Leidah is set in Norway during the time when the beliefs in pagan or folkloric gods were replaced by the Christian God. The people of the fishing village of Orken are puritanical in their new beliefs but resort to the old beliefs and punishments for the unexplained. Against this backdrop, Leidah Pietersdatter is born with blue, webbed hands and feet to Pieter, a human father and to Maeva, a folkloric or mythical creature who was robbed of her skin and natural form by Pieter. Thus begins years of solitude and insecurity for Maeva, who the townsfolk reject because she is an outsider, loneliness for Leidah, who just wants to be an average child, and delusion for Pieter who believes all will be well. Weaved into this plot line are three fantastically figures: Maeva’s shapeshifting past lover, the spirit of a witch, who protects Maeva and Leidah, and the Fates.

The book jumps between narrators, the real and the mystical worlds, and the past and present to bring characters’ stories together and paint the big picture. It comes to a head when Maeva can no longer survive in the real world and Leidah shows signs of fantastical powers. She may have to find her true home, too.

Becoming Leidah is a complex novel with many layers of realities, voices, themes, and times that the author spins and weaves together to the final scene. The writing is rich with imagery that evokes the town, the people, and the sea, which plays an integral role. The attempt at a lyrical or fairy tale voice sometimes felt over the top and there is no neat and tidy ending, leaving the interpretation open to the reader. Those looking for a different kind of reading experience should consider the novel.
Reviewed for The Historical Novel Society
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This is a debut novel that I'm so glad to have read! It is a little bit historical fiction but also some magical realism mixed in. The book is set in alternating time lines, and quickly sucked me in. There are some some parts, but those moments are beautiful. Over all its just a very mystical vibe and that is reflected in the writing.
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Loved this book. It was just the right thing at the right time. I loved the magic and mythology woven into the family fabric. Loved how the mother-daughter relationship developed as the original image of the husband began to tarnish. Beautifully done. Themes of loss and love. Fabulous
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A delightful, intriguing and gorgeously wrought story that blends fable and reality.

It's hard to describe the plot without revealing the mystery within, so I'll leave you to read the description. What I will say is that Grierson leads us with skill and grace, allowing us just enough room to also form our own interpretation of exactly who Maeva and her daughter Leidah truly are.

In the Acknowledgements, Michelle Grierson refers to herself as an amateur. This may be a debut novel but it is anything but amateurish. Becoming Leidah is without a doubt one of my top reads in 2021.
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This is a mystical, meandery, magical realism book drawing on Norse mythology and set in the 19th century Norway. I enjoyed the book, but it was also a slow read for me. 

I loved learning more about Norse mythology and Odin. The story of Maeva and her husband was difficult for me, but I understand the mythology around fishermen and Selkies.

My favourite parts were about Leidah and watching her grow up realize who she is. The writing is beautiful and I loved the magical realism. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I found parts frustrating and hard to read.

TW: rape, forced marriage

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.
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This Canadian debut is set in nineteenth-century Norway, where the marriage of time and magic brought forth uninhibited wonder.

Maeva and Pieter struggle to live in peace and acceptance, but the villagers of Ørken are far from welcoming. If any, they are always suspicious of new and eccentric folks, and Maeva’s elfen looks are a stark reminder of the old ways. Of magic. These made raising Leidah, their blue-skinned daughter, among these people even more difficult.

Norse Mythology has this defined appeal that tickles the curiosity, and Michelle Grierson made this an even more fascinating read with her lyrical narration and distinct sense of wonder. Readers will question the villagers’ spite, Pieter’s blind belief, Maeva’s secret, and Leidah’s naïveté. There's danger, betrayal, anticipation, and redemption. It feels like every page is a discovery. The book is told in three parts, separated by time, which unfolds into a realm of timeless magic.

BECOMING LEIDAH is recommended for those who love a good blend of history and mythology.
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Thank you to Netgallery and Simon Schuster for this ARC! 

If you enjoy mystical Folklore look no further! 
This book is a mix of history, fiction, mystical folklore, and Norse mythology. The cover itself is beautiful and mystical, which is what made me what to pick it up and read it initially!

This beautiful story takes place in a little fishing village in Norway and is told in alternating time lines-“what was” and “what is” (which usually would bother me, but it didn’t with this book!) Maeve is a young woman who is rescued by a fisherman. Maeve and her fisherman rescuer marry and have a child. Leidah  is a peculiar child  with the ability to shape shift-has blue limbs, and webbed hands and feet. This story is Strange, weird, mystical, has family drama, a triangle—-all the above! 

This is not a fast pace moving story-but rather slow, beautiful, and weird! Be prepared to be a bit confused at times. Don’t rush through this one-take your time with it, really grasp the mythical storytelling. As another reviewer said-this will be one that you either love, or hate. 

For a debut author the writing is definitely beautiful  and enticing. However, the ending left me with questions and wanting more than I got. 

I recommend this if you like slower paced, mystical realism and folklore novels.
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This is a debut novel from Grierson who is Canadian and has had a long career as an arts educator.  The novel is set in nineteenth century Norway and was inspired by some of the myths from that country.  When Pieter is rescued from a shipwreck by a beautiful woman, Maeva, he takes her home as his wife.  Together they have a daughter, Leidah, who is born with webbed digits and blue hands and feet.  Unfortunately for as much as Pieter wants them to have a normal life, Maeva knows the community does not accept her or her daughter and treats them as pariahs.  She does her best to conceal her magical ancestry, but as Leidah grows up, her own unusual traits become harder to hide.  This is an unusual story complete with ghosts, shapeshifters and magical creatures, but at heart it is a love story.  It is a great recommendation for fans of books such as those by Eowyn Ivey, Diane Setterfield or Alice Hoffman. I really enjoyed it.
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Becoming Leidah by Michelle Grierson 

A stunning debut that has left me reeling! For lovers of magical realism/lyrical prose/folklore/historical fiction/Norse mythology or any of the above ...get excited!

Set in old Norway, this story is told in alternating time lines - What Is and What Was. Maeva, rescued by a shipwrecked fisherman is now married to her rescuer and has a daughter born with peculiar physical attributes. The town is quick to judge any “otherness” and Maeva keeps her daughter close to keep her safe. As her daughter Leidah grows, her unusual appearance is harder to keep quiet, as are her unique abilities. Maeve is struggling as she feels the pull of her true home.

This story was WILD. Weird, wonderful, a slow-moving entrancing story that had me wrapped up like one of the Three Sisters’ webs. The beautiful imagery, the atmospheric beckoning of the sea, the mystery of Maeva and the picture that slowly emerges of her identity.. it’s magnificent. 

My caution is prepare to be confused. Really lean into the mythical storytelling at work, the back and forth narrators and timelines. It felt like standing close to a painting, where you are only seeing the textures and blobs, but as the story unfolds you are stepping back, getting a wider view; by the end you (mostly) are seeing the painting in its entirety. There’s a few images evoked that were just so intense and spectacular that I won’t soon forget this novel. I can’t say I truly understood the whole plot. I would love a physical copy to re-read as perhaps now that I know where the story is going I can better appreciate the journey. 

For me, this was a genre bending delight. Some parts were a tad repetitive, I had a whole lot of unanswered questions throughout, and I didn’t quite understand Maeva’s relationship to Leidah for the first half of the book. Given how much I enjoyed the experience though, this feels like nitpicking. 

I recommend this, but not unless you’re up for an experience as I described. I think this one will have two camps - those who LOVE it, and those who aren’t a fan of the style. It’s obvious where I stand 😂

A fantastic debut! This publishes April 13, 2021! Thank you to Netgalley and to Simon & Schuster Canada for free access to an e-arc of this novel. All opinions are my own.
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Read if you like: magical realism and lyrical writing
This book is about a young woman who is rescued and brought to a small fishing village in Norway during the 19th century. Maeva is not what she seems though, and when she marries the fisherman who rescued her, she gives birth to a daughter, but her daughter does not seem to be entirely human.
The writing was absolutely beautiful and I loved the description of the plot and the incorporation of the Norse Gods. The book was fast-paced and kept me intrigued through the entire book. I also really liked the past and present narratives, showing us glimpses of what happened when Maeva first came to the village, and then when her daughter is eight years old and what is happening to her.
CW: death during childbirth, violence against women.
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I'm not easily impressed. This is different.  Quietly exhilarating.  While reading Becoming Leidah, I wondered: What am I ‘becoming’ as I read? Will I ever-after be more alive than I’ve ever been? In the end, some of that excitement was lost - replaced with something deeper.

How many dimensions of literary delight exist? I think I experienced all here: surprise after surprise - micro to macro - subtle yet electrifying.

Both innocence and experience are in full bloom. Not just a fantasy, it’s very grounded in reality. Magical realism with an emphasis on both magical and real.

It did not fulfill my wishes. It brought me somewhere more nuanced, more mature - an integration that made magic more real. It invited self-reflection, and brought some of my life into greater perspective.

I saw Becoming Leidah on a list of historical fiction. Fair enough. It certainly presents a deeply-researched time and place, and adds layers beyond factual or even speculative histories, so although it is not about famous people or events, it is historical and it is fiction. I’d also call it a mythical folktale, and family drama. And (perhaps like all family dramas, beneath the surface) it's a mystery. It's not only a mystery to discover what happened / what's really happening in this story - it's a mystery into humanity's greatest mysteries. And it opens world-changing(?) possibilities.

The book jumps between time periods and narrators, and although I have read books where that bothered me, here I loved weaving the story together. Still, I can imagine some readers finding it a challenge. Unreliable narrators and intentionally undeclared travel between worlds can make it seem like the story is inconsistent, when it’s actually just more layered than you might assume.

Reading the jacket description, I wondered if it would present a stereotype of religion or men. Turned out I was the one doing the stereotyping. (I came to identify with both husband and wife.)

The ending is highly poetic, and ambiguous - which might not work for people who want a clear ending / definitive closure. It’s not a cliffhanger - it is complete in itself - and yet, I would love to read a follow-up book - I want to explore where these characters go after growing to this point. Perhaps that exploration is up to me.

I used to wonder to what extent / in what ways it would be true to say "With imagination, anyone can be rich." Well, I've never been richer.
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Becoming Leidah is a historical fiction that weaves magic and folklore into the real world. Leidah's story is not given a specific time period that it takes place. That being said the events of this book take place in Norway; when Christianity was new and old Norse ways were dying out, a quick google search suggests that this suggests that the story takes place somewhere around the 8th century. The book is told from multiple POVs (Leidah, Maeva, Pieter, etc), and is told through different time periods and perspectives. The author has cleverly separated these into overarching chapters that relate to Norse mythology and customs; these are What Was, What Is, The Knots, and The Threads. Each tells its own story involving the characters, and as they weave together, you are able to piece together how everything is connected.

Leidah is a curious 7 year old who has awakened long hidden magic. She loves her parents, is wiser than her years and wants to fit in with the regular people despite her differences. She doesn't understand why people treat her and her mother differently, but despite this she remains happy and trie to figure things out on her own. Her inner monologue is one of wanting understanding and clarity on how the world works, must like every other child who faces diversity. Maeva, Leidah's mother, has hidden her past from everyone. She has gone through a lot and is ostracized from the village. She is not form there and therefore will never be fully accepted by anyone. She faces challenges regarding hiding her magical ancestry, religion, cultural, and raising a family with her fisherman husband, Pieter. The other characters that we get some POV from are all very original and well thought out. The way these characters lives revolve around each other whether loosely or intricately allowed the disjointed timelines to weave together by the end of the story.

The more books that I read that involve Norse mythology, the more I wish I knew more about it. World-building. The world-building in this story is amazing. You feel like you are there with the characters. The  storylines and time jumps weave together well. Michelle Grierson clearly spent a lot of time researching and developing this story. The writing style is good. It wraps you up in the story and pulls you in. I just wish that it wasn't so jumpy from character perspectives to time period. I felt like I finally got connected to the story in one place, then the next chapter was a different character at a different time and place. The story also has a lot of mystery and open-endedness to it. Some of the mysteries created in Becoming Leidah are left for you to use your imagination and I can't help but wonder and hypothesize what happened after the ending.
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I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book by debut author Michelle Grierson. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. This is a book set in Norway (I never quite figured out when, but a long time ago), and takes from Norse mythology. It’s a beautifully woven story full of magical realism. 

I loved Leidah and found her to be such a wonderfully captured character. There’s a lot of open endedness about this book, which I mostly enjoyed. The fact that this is a debut is hugely impressive. 5 stars!
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With its lyrical, poetical verse and haunting, ethereal atmosphere, Becoming Leidah is going to appeal to the reader who enjoys a story with slow, purposeful pacing and a good dose of weird. Never quite knowing exactly what is happening in this strange little story about a magical girl with webbed, blue appendages and her mother who is flaking patches of skin and collecting it to sew into a quilt … was a bit overwhelming at times, but I truly loved the beautiful writing on display here that kept me eagerly flipping pages. The book beats with a pulse of quiet urgency as you, the reader, are desperate to figure out the mystery of what is happening and how all things will connect - which they do, but in a somewhat open ended way. 

Combining historical fiction, magical realism, and Norse mythology this is a truly unique reading experience that defies classification. For those who aren’t put off by the unconventional, this is a fascinating and exquisitely singular read that had me riveted from the first page.
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I just loved this book! Becoming Leidah was on a list for 2021 historical fiction, so instantly my curiousity was peaked. Then when I read that it weaves a mother/daughter story along with Norse mythology, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. 

This book is beautiful in every sense, the writing is so yummy, and you feel as if you've been swept away by the sea to Norway, and in this families issues. Leidah is born with webbed fingers & toes, that have a blueish tinge to them. Her mother and father know that their town will see this as a bad omen... so they hide her body away. But now that Leidah is a young girl, it's becoming harder and harder for her to hide what she truly is. 

The story just unfolds and surprises the reader with each chapter. And the chapters are fast, and flowing!
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A supernatural love story encapsulates a small family as deep as the sea and as cold as ice in this debut story by Michelle Grierson.

It follows Leidah, a girl born with blue skin and webbed fingers and toes who awakens to an ancestral magic that has her Mother guarding a tragic secret. Maeva, the mother, is hiding a mystery about her past that will have devastating implications for her entranced husband. Fate weaves a delicate web that is heartbreaking and unavoidable for the family, who must embrace their ancestry, as the present and future are dependent upon their secrets coming to light.

This was a beguiling tale about how love and loss can help someone to embrace who they are by remembering who they were, who they are, and who they are to become. It featured Norse mythology and some witchy elements that tied nicely together. It was part fable and part magical realism which read like an old forgotten legend. The writing was atmospheric and made me feel as though I was living on the edge of a wintry forest in Norway. 

Overall I felt the book was a little disjointed because I didn’t feel the story about the fates tied in with Leidah’s story that well. The elusive nature of Maeva for most of the book made it difficult for me as a reader to understand how it connected to the shapeshifter character. It seemed as though I was reading two different stories that were very loosely intertwined in some evasive way. That may have been the intention by the author, but I would have preferred if the connections between the characters were clearer earlier on.

Not the easiest story to grasp, but original and suspenseful nonetheless. I look forward to reading more by the author.
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