God’s Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert

GodsDaughterCoverMany of you know that I’m descended from the Vikings and I love a good Norse story.

Today I feature a great one: God’s Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert. I was lucky enough to read an ARC a couple of months ago. Here’s the review I wrote:

Review (5-stars)

I’ve read several works of fiction about the Viking period, most cliched tales of raids and pillaging. This book goes beyond the stereotypes and deep into the relationships and demands of day-to-day life exploring the new lands of North America. Gudrid, a strong and resourceful Viking woman, faces the challenges of raising a child on the frontier while managing her troubled relationship with her husband, Thorfinn. One of his most trusted warriors has fallen for her, and she is confused about the feelings she has in return.

As the title suggests, Gudrid has embraced Christianity and this is a fascinating angle on Viking life as we witness their shift from the pagan gods to Christ. While a deep theme of the book, the author does a great job of not turning this book into a religious text. In this way, it should appeal to anyone, regardless of their beliefs.

Every character is richly brought to life, and the Viking culture is wonderfully captured and historically accurate. I could picture every scene in the forest, or mealtime in the longhouse as if it were a movie. Gorgeously written.

A very compelling read and a unique take on viking history seen through the eyes of a woman.

I’m not normally a reader of historical fiction (I leave that up to Tamara) but I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and isn’t that cover gorgeous? Heather was kind enough to answer some of my questions:


Graeme: Did you specifically set out to tell the real story of Gudrid, or did you just want to write about a Viking woman, and came across her in the sagas?

Heather: Ooh, good question. A little of both. I found Gudrid in the sagas and loved her story, as well as all the characters in the Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga. I actually started a story based around a fictional character (Stena, a reindeer herder who does show up in God’s Daughter), and it just wasn’t working on some level. My husband asked me why I didn’t write about Gudrid, if I loved her story so much. I took a stab at it, and it just flowed. I write first-person, so I have to be able to get into my main character’s head.

Graeme: Why do you think few people realize that the Vikings “discovered” North America hundreds of years before Columbus?

Heather: I’m not really sure–maybe it’s not taught in schools as much? Even though Leif Erikson Day was established nationwide in 1964, I feel it hasn’t gained traction until lately. Mostly because people are now disgruntled with Columbus’ “settling” techniques. Although I’m sure the Vikings would’ve settled this New World the same way, if they’d had the numbers they needed to take over.

Graeme: God’s Daughter works superbly on so many levels. What’s your favourite aspect: Her devotion to Christianity, her troubled relationship with Finn, the life of a Viking woman, Vikings encountering native Americans, or something else?

Heather: Oh my goodness, thank you! I definitely wanted those various layers in the book. I suppose, for me, the driving conflict with Gudrid was internal, even though she had all this external chaos in her life. So the conflicted relationship with her husband was definitely utmost in my mind, because it’s something I see so often in marriages today.

Graeme: How much liberty did you take with the real life story of Gudrid?

Heather: I tried to incorporate nearly all the events of her life mentioned in the sagas, then I basically built her character around that. I knew she was a Christian, beautiful and wise, well-respected, won friends easily, communicated with natives…basically, I knew a lot from the sagas. But the sagas are quite blunt and a bit sterile. I wanted to fill in those gaps, so I imagined Gudrid as a person…and her motivations and hang-ups seemed to spring to life. So I’d say I took the most liberty with her thought life, since we are in her head throughout the novel.

Graeme: How do you think Vikings changed after adopting Christianity?

Heather: Historically, we can see they changed in many ways, abandoning old practices such as leaving infants out to die (exposure) and eating horseflesh. It was a slow change–they didn’t have the Bible–but according to history, many miracles took place during that time. Sort of like a throw-down between their holy women (volva) and the monks who came to town. Most people emphasize that King Olaf forced Christianity on Norway/Iceland/Greenland, but I feel many people accepted it voluntarily, like Leif Eiriksson and his mother, Thjodhild. Also Gudrid.

Graeme: What did you learn about your own faith after writing God’s Daughter?

Heather: I guess part of what resonated with me was that Gudrid often felt alone in her Christianity–which is odd, because I have many Christian friends. And yet, sometimes we feel alienated from everyone else, because we’re going through something we can’t even put into words. Gudrid tended to shut up about her trials and repress things, but you can see her crying out to God during those hard times. Doesn’t mean everything turns out hunky-dory. But it means we have Someone to talk to who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Graeme: What was your favourite scene to write? Your hardest?

Heather: I’m grinning, just knowing my favorite will involve the irrepressible Freydis, who is Eirik the Red’s daughter/Gudrid’s sis-in-law.  [Graeme: I loved Freydis, such an awesome character!]  She just says and does whatever she wants and lets the chips fall where they may. I liked the scene where she sat in the corner of the longhouse, fingering her curved knife and glaring at the men. You feel the power in that girl–uncontrolled and raging. I’m looking forward to writing my second book, Forest Child, in which she’s the main point-of-view character. I also enjoyed writing a pivotal scene with Gudrid’s husband, Finn. But I had two hard scenes that involved deaths. I teared up every time I had to work on them.

Graeme: If I gave you a one-way time travel ticket right now, would you go to live in Viking times?

Heather: Oh dear! That’s tough! But I’d stay here with my husband and kiddos. Still, if I could finagle a way to get back to this time, I’d definitely go back and meet Eirik the Red’s clan. I just need a TARDIS…

Graeme: What’s your next book project and are you going to treat us to more Viking tales?

Heather: Yes–the follow-up to God’s Daughter is in the works. However, I’m not sure what my next project will have to be. I do have a mystery out on submission with publishers, and if they want it, edits will definitely be in my future. But I plan to start working in earnest on Forest Child as soon as God’s Daughter is released into the big wide reading world.

Thanks so much for having me today, Graeme! And thank you immensely for being one of my early readers. Your input helped me jazz up some important scenes and hopefully make them more exciting for readers. All the best to you!


HDGHeather enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.

Buy the Kindle version. Other formats and paperback are coming soon, I believe.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads.

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