Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
A Breath of Hope in the second novel in Lauraine Snelling’s Under Northern Skies series. Returning readers will remember the majority of the characters from the first novel, and will get to know a few new faces. Snelling’s biggest strength in this novel is her careful attention to accurate historical details. Furthermore, her obvious passion for cultural authenticity boosts the quality of the plot. Unfortunately, her biggest weakness is that the story is very tame and slow to develop. In this second part of the series, Snelling continues the story of the Carlson family. Signe and Rune have recently immigrated from Norway with their three sons to live with Rune’s uncle Einar in Minnesota. Signe and family are enjoying the gift God gave them shortly after their arrival in America, their baby daughter Kristen. However, they continue to be puzzled and annoyed by Einar’s reclusive and angry behavior towards everyone he knows and meets. It seems that Einar has an unpleasant reputation with everyone in town, a fact he does not seem to mind. The harder that Signe and Rune try to get him to open up, the harder he pushes away. Meanwhile, back home in Norway, Rune’s sister Nilda and brother Ivar are anticipating their voyage to join their brother in America. Nilda struggles to find a job to hold her over during the waiting period, suffering unwelcome advances from a shady character at one job and criticism from his mother at another. However, she and her brother eventually make their way to Minnesota, a happening that cheers their brother and sister-in-law. However, as Einar retreats further into darkness and lashes out at those around him, the Carlsons begin to fear he will never change. To find out what happens to the Carlsons, read the book! Overall, the plot and storyline quality is the strongest point of the novel, however, I feel that it could have been better.
Character Development (1.5 points)
Snelling definitely has room for improvement in the area of character development. Her strength is dialogue between characters, and her weaknesses are the use of third person and the use of too many secondary characters. The interaction between characters is poignant and realistic, however, at times the “good” characters seem almost too perfect. In comparison, the large pool of secondary characters makes it hard to get to know the main characters. For instance, Signe, Rune, and Einar are fairly well-developed, however, Nilda and Ivar are barely developed beyond their relation to Rune. Granted, it is hard for any author to fully develop four main characters, so it would seem that a reduction of characters is an order. For instance, the Signe and Rune subplot is hardly needed. Instead, I feel that Snelling should have focused on Nilda and Ivar’s journey to America (in first person), and featured Signe, Rune, and family in letters to and from the family members. Therefore, on the whole, character development is slightly below average.
Creativity and Originality (.5 points)
While there is little creativity to speak of in this novel, Snelling wins a half-point in for her use of generational tendencies and for her careful attention to historical and cultural accuracy. Sadly, there is nothing original about this novel, it does not stand out from it’s genre and left much to be desired in character development, along with room for improvement in plot and storyline quality. However, I feel that this flaws could be improved in a Christian historical miniseries. This is because there is ample content, and enough potential for this series to hit the big screen. In the hands of the right screenwriter, this plot could be rearranged to create a character-driven story about the struggles and triumphs of Norwegian immigrants. Lastly, it is my continual hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential in Christian fiction, and use to create content that glorifies God.
Wish List Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points