God's Mercy, by Kerstin Ekman

Kerstin Lillemor Ekman

(born 27 August 1933 Risinge) is a Swedish novelist. Kerstin Ekman wrote a string of successful detective novels (among others De tre små mästarna and Dödsklockan) but later went on to psychological and social themes.

There is an excellent article about Kerstin Ekman in Swedish book review, written by Anna Paterson.

Kerstin Ekman

Bibliography, selected

  • Blackwater (Händelser vid vatten, 1993) 1996 (Crime fiction)
  • Under the Snow (De tre små mästarna, 1961), 1997 (CF)
  • The Forest of Hours (Rövarna i Skuleskogen, 1988) 1998
The Women and the Town (Kvinnorna och staden) Tetralogy:
  • Witches' Rings (Häxringarna, 1974), 1997
  • The Spring (Springkällan, 1976), 1999
  • Angel House (Änglahuset, 1979), 2002
  • A City of Light (En stad av ljus, 1983), 2003
The Wolfskin (Vargskinnet) Trilogy
  • God's Mercy (Guds Barmhärtighet, 1999)
  • The Last String (Sista rompan, 2002)
  • Lottery Scratchcards (Skraplotter, 2003)

This novel, as many of Kerstin Ekman’s God's Mercy, by Kerstin Ekmanother novels, takes place far north in Sweden, in Blackwater and surrounding areas. It is set in the early 1900s, and is a somewhat bleak and slow-moving novel centered on a young midwife, Hillevi Klarins. She has been trained in the urban center of Uppsala, and moves up north to work and to link up with Edvard Nolin, the Uppsala preacher to whom she is secretly betrothed. It is a strange and scary place, far from civilization as she knows it, with a local population that she has a hard time understanding and a culture strongly influenced by Sami reindeer herders. A place where Hillevi will need God's Mercy.

She is committed to caring for expectant mothers, but the welcome she receives is cold. What she meets is poverty and empty faces. Life is hard and difficult for Hillevi. It is as if she had come to a different country, where she can only recognize and understand some parts of what is happening. A place full of tension - between native Lapps, Swedes, and the nearby Norwegians. Röbäck, the place where she initially settles, has electricity and plumbing, but is also a place of superstition and folk medicine, and where people profoundly distrust outsiders like Hillevi.

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.

The romance with Nolin does not develop as expected either. He is reluctant to move forward with it, and in the end it more or less just evaporates. Hillevi ends up instead marrying a shopkeeper, and eventually has a child of her own to worry over. We follow Hillevi and her little family and Elis as they try to build a life under the very hard social and natural circumstances of the region.

God’s Mercy takes place in and describes a setting that is unknown to most people even in Scandinavia – the far North, where the Sami people live, with arctic cold, dark days and nights during the winter. The culture is very different from that in the Southern parts of the Scandinavian countries, and hard to understand for people who don’t know it from the inside. It is a place where two quite different cultures meet, where two different languages are spoken, and where two extremely different ways of interpreting and understanding nature coincide. But even though the climate may be cold, feelings run hot up North: love, hate, distrust and treachery are figure prominently in this tale. Ekman does a wonderful job of describing the complex and tense interplay between Scandinavian and Sami cultures, and of documenting details of this now mostly forgotten life.

God’s Mercy is excellently written, and Linda Schenck has done an excellent job in translating it into English. It is a strange, beautiful, and very evocative book that you ought to take the time to read.

Praise for God’s Mercy:

"Ekman describes everything with an unflinching eye, from tuberculosis to the particulars of sex and birth, and the harsh beauty of the Swedish landscape."—Publishers Weekly

"The writing is gorgeously evocative of a place many of us will never see. . . . Credit is also due to translator Linda Schenck, who ably shifts this exquisite prose into English ."—Diane Leach, PopMatters.com

“God's Mercy is a story about outsiders. In classic works about the transformation of Sweden written by men, the hero often exclaims: ‘I don't want to be like them.’—Dagens Nyheter (Sweden)

City of Light, by Kerstin Ekman

This is the fourth book in the City of Light, by Kerstin Ekmanquartet of novels about Women and the City, which started with Witches' Rings and The Spring, and continued with The Angel House. The series was written between 1974 and 1983. It chronicles women's lives over the past 100 years as passed in and around Ekman's own native town of Katrineholm.

City of Light follows Anne-Marie, a middle-aged woman returning from Portugal to the Swedish town where she grew up in order to sell the old house she inherited from her father. She ends up staying in the house, alone with the memories of her father, an idiosyncratic character only she truly understood. She is also nervously awaiting the arrival of her runaway adopted daughter, and now realizes that she has never really tried to understand her.

Delving deep into the female psyche, City of Light is an intensely moving story about love, in a rich and unusual variety of forms, and also a sensitive and thoughtful depiction of the way in which human beings approach life and one another. Ann-Marie searches for identity and meaning in a modern, secularized society. It is a very fitting conclusion to this monumental epic by Kerstin Ekman. City of Light is an intensely moving novel about love, in a rich and unusual variety of forms, and also a sensitive and thoughtful depiction of the way in which human beings approach life and one another.

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