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God is Not Finished with Iceland

From Maelstrom, my WWII novel set in Iceland.

Falda stood on a slip of treeless earth, eyes to the aluminum sea. Spiraling and spitting, the water crashed against towering lava sentinels guarding the approach to Iceland. Carried by the constant wind, misty waves of the salty spew blew ashore. Sprinkled Falda’s lips with its brine-laced spray.

Upon each swell came a new wave of invaders: Americans. The harbors were already thick with their convoy-weary ships. The sky overhead hummed with their buzzing aircraft. Replacements for the departing British, the Americans were young, brash, and used to getting their way, Falda’s father and brothers insisted. Falda, however, knew their real complaint was about the number of Americans who had descended on her Arctic island. Enough to double Iceland’s male population. Force Icelandic men to compete with outsiders for the affections of Icelandic women.

A fact that secretly amused Falda.

Turning away from the sea, she looked to Katla, the great brooding glacier-topped volcano. She wondered if the elves living near the mountain’s base were watching. Planning, perhaps, to surprise and trick the soldiers, as was their way.

Like all Icelanders, Falda grew up reading the ancient sagas. How, she pondered, would this war’s story be woven into their rich history. Told to future generations. The sagas were more than fanciful creations. There were the lifeblood of Iceland. They helped the people understand the mysteries of life. Like the possibility that Katla might one day open her mouth and spray flaming rivers of melted rock down upon fishing boats and farms. Or barely lift her head, allowing a sudden gush of melted glacial water to spill over the sides in a driving flood.

Jokulhlaups.

In 1918, when Falda was a baby, her mother drowned in such a flood while out riding. With little warning, the icy surge engulfed her and the horse. Losing its footing, the poor animal threw Falda’s mother into the cold stream.

Death, her oldest brother told her, came swiftly.

Sometimes, when the wind whistles through cracks in her bedroom window, Falda imagines it is her mother, calling to her. It doesn’t frighten her. She is used to the sounds of her disquieting island. To the howling of the wind. The constant shifting and grinding of the earth’s plates beneath her. The whistling and hissing of acrid gases shooting through fissures in Iceland’s volcanic earth. The shrieks of the island’s birds.

“God is not finished with Iceland.”

That is what Falda’s people tell their children. How they explain the visceral beauty of Icelandic life. Teach their children to accept nature’s unpredictable whims.

Falda shifted her gaze to the shore, where a growing mound of military sea bags clumped together like a colony of fat seals. It was impossible to know how long their owners intended to stay. How long the war would last. Or how long Falda would she be able to obey Pabbi’s wishes and avoid the Americans who clogged the streets of Reykjavik.

Only one thing was certain. Life in Iceland would never be the same.