A young woman with cognitive disabilities finds inspiration in Viking legends and prepares herself to become a hero when her brother gets involved with drug dealers.
Zelda knows she’s different than most people she meets, and she understands that difference is because of something called fetal alcohol syndrome. She has seen the unkind glances and heard the muttered slurs, but really, she just wants what any 21-year-old wants: love, acceptance, and some degree of independence to make decisions about her life. Also? A really good sword would be useful. Zelda is obsessed with Vikings—their legends, their fierce loyalty, their courage in the face of danger. Like the ancient clans, she finds strength in her tribe: her older brother, Gert, and his on-again, off-again girlfriend, AK47, plus her helpful therapist and her friends at the community center, especially her boyfriend, Marxy. He isn’t the best kisser, but he’s willing to try sex, a subject about which Zelda is definitely curious. But when Gert struggles to pay the bills and gets involved with dangerous drug dealers, Zelda knows she has to step in and help him whatever the cost. “The hero in a Viking legend is always smaller than the villain,” she reasons. “That is what makes it a legend.” In this engaging debut novel, MacDonald skillfully balances drama and violence with humor, highlighting how an unorthodox family unit is still a family. He’s never condescending, and his frank examination of the real issues facing cognitively disabled adults—sexuality, employment, independence—is bracing and compassionate. With Zelda, he’s created an unforgettable character, one whose distinctive voice is entertaining and inspiring. Will appeal to fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
An engaging, inclusive debut.