Wendy Webb’s newest book, The Keepers of Metsan Valo, is filled with magical realism that explores the questions “If the folktales and legends in your heritage were true, what would they look like in modern times?” and “Are the people who believe these stories eccentric, slightly off-kilter, or just more in touch with the natural world?”
Metsan Valo is the Halla family home on an island on Lake Superior. Annalise “Anni” Halla returns after a ten-year absence for her grandmother’s funeral. As soon as she arrives at the home, strange things start to happen, first to her, then to her twin brother, Theo. As the story continues, creepy things happen to her mother Arden and to her Aunt Gloria. And who is the man who Aunt Gloria married after a whirlwind romance?
Taika “Mummo” Hallo was of Finnish descent and often told tales about the Vaki who lived in the forest surrounding Metsan Valo. Prior to her death, Mummo prepared a video will for her two daughters, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild to explain her wishes. In the video, she tells her family about their female Finnish ancestors who were able to command the weather, animals, and befriend the Vaki. She gives nominal gifts to her daughters and Anni’s cousin, Vicki. The rest of the estate is to be divided between Anni and Theo, but Mummo leaves Metsan Valo to Anni alone.
Is there a relationship between the mysterious events and the folklore? The housekeepers give Anni an ancient book, which possibly holds the answers. Only it is written in Finnish, a language Anni cannot read. Plus, she is too busy dealing with the current events to have time to look at it. But until she does, things keep getting eerier.
While I rarely read Gothic novels, I liked this story. With Halloween only a few weeks away, tis the season for such books! There is nothing gory or gruesome, nor is it scary. I enjoyed the humor of the funny dialogue between Anni and Theo. And there is a budding romance between Anni and the lawyer for the estate. A few things bothered me, especially that Anni, who lived in Paris, never came to visit a single time in ten years. If I was Mummo, I probably would have written her out of my will for that alone.
3.5-stars rounded up to 4. Thanks to Ashley V. at Lake Union Publishing for my advanced reader copy. This novel will be published on October 5, 2021. The Kindle edition is 315 pages.