Nikolai's Fortune

Solveig Torvik

  • $19.95 paperback (9780295992334) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2006
  • Subject Listing: Fiction, Scandinavian Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 332 pp., map, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: A McLellan Book
  • Contents

As a child, Solveig Torvik heard stories of a lost, mysterious great-grandfather who left Finland for America to make his fortune - leaving Torvik’s great-grandmother and his unborn daughter behind. As a reporter, Torvik determined to discover the fate of the man who followed his dreams to Oregon. She uncovered not only the story of one man, but also the saga of an entire family. In Nikolai’s Fortune, a tale of Scandinavian women, the journalist turns fact into fiction and shares the tales of her ancestors as she imagines they would have told them.

Nikolai's Fortune is a heartbreaking, multigenerational epic, chronicling family secrets and sufferings against the backdrop of Scandinavian history and culture. Blending memoir and historical fiction, grandmother, mother, and daughter each share their own story: Kaisa, of her mother’s love for Nikolai and her own 500-mile trek at the age of twelve from impoverished Finland across the snowy mountains of Lapland; Berit, of child slavery and an obsession with seeking out her grandfather’s fortune for her mother; and Hannah, the voice of Torvik, of her childhood during the Nazi occupation of Norway and her family’s emigration to Idaho.

Through detailed historical research into census, church, and weather records, as well as academic and museum sources, Torvik recaptures a dramatic story nearly lost to memory and inherits something worth more than a fortune in riches – a sense of her family history, ethnic background, and the generations of remarkable women who came before her.

Norwegian-born Solveig Torvik was a reporter, editor, and columnist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for thirty years. She was also a reporter for United Press International in Salt Lake City and for the San Francisco Chronicle, and an editor at the San Jose Mercury News.

"An intriguing cross between a heartbreaking memoir and expertly researched historical fiction, Nikolai's Fortune immerses the reader in a beautifully drawn world of poverty and female struggle - from the hardscrabble farms of 19th-century Finland, to Norway under the German occupation, to family revelations after imigration to Idaho. It is the most classic of American stories: the long winding journey from Old World to New, and then the rediscovery of tangled roots, of mothers and daughters, in homelands never entirely left behind." - Bill Dietrich, author of The Scourge of God

“Torvik tells a story that is at times moving, at times disturbing, and nearly always riveting.” - Katherine Hanson, editor of An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women’s Fiction

“Solveig Torvik has provided readers with a rich, detailed and beautifully woven tale of a northern European family. Her writing is flawless.” - Christine Ingebritsen, author of The Nordic States and European Unity
Book I. The Road of the Four Winds (Kaisa)
1. Meeting Nikolai
2. Marie's Past
3. Dreams of America
4. America Widows
5. Sisu
6. The Road to Lapland
7. The Alps of the North
8. Learning Norwegian
9. Courting
10. Signaldal
11. Anton
12. Homeless
13. The Birtavarre Mines
Book II. Under Otertind (Berit)
14. Loss
15. Aalesund
16. The Chosen People
17. Hanna
Book III. Soup from a Nail (Hanna)
18. Hamstring
19. Making Peace with Peace
20. America
21. Homecoming
Notes on Methodology

"A brooding, often beautiful tale of life in the Far North and the immigrant experience." - Kirkus Reviews

"The saga of countless families who survived starvation, ostracism and war to reach America." - The Seattle Times

"Nikolai's Fortune is a remarkable intergenerational testament to 'sisu,' the Finnish quality of being able to bear the unbearable and persevere. It is a hard book to put down." - The Olympian

"Solveig Torvik has produced a dramatic masterpiece of historical fiction that it hard to put down. Here, at last, is a Finnish Saami relocation and immigration story that exposes the roots of intergenerational trauma. It can easily take its place beside Louise Erdrich's The Master Butchers Singing Club and Alice Walker's The Temple of My Familiar as classics of the genre." - Baiki: The International Sami Journal