Elisabet’s Will by Sandra Sperling

I’m not quite ready to cast aside the world Sperling created in Elisabet’s Will, as her characters almost immediately popped off the page and became actual people. Some of them, I’ve felt like I’ve known or would like to know, a couple others – not so much. This is a carefully crafted work, both in terms of characters and plot. After first reading the list of characters, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep them straight, but Sperling does a masterful job at helping the reader along, and soon I was able to allay my fear. With stunning realism, we enter the daily routines of two sides of a fractured family in rural Minnesota. We smell their much believed coffee, see their refurbished couches, barns, and enter their steamy saunas. More than one mystery ensues.

My favorite characters are Lisbet, a young grandmother, and Greta – her five year-old grand- daughter. They make quite a team. Conversation between the two is full of warmth and wit. Greta prefers her grandma’s company more than anyone else’s. While Lisbet encourages Greta’s love of fairies—and hence her imagination—she also cautions the child about cougars loose in the area, as well as a kidnapper.

Throughout the book, we wonder, along with Lisbet, why she continues to be shunned by part of her family. Why is Dennis so despicable? What had happened to cause such a rift in the family? Does the title—Elisabet’s Will—refer to Lisbet’s grandmother’s will, or rather, the strength of will (sisu) shown by so many of these mostly good and decent people? This is a novel of family relationships – of deep love and wide divisions. The ending is extremely satisfying, as justice is served. Also, the future for the protagonists is a hopeful one. I’m looking forward to reading more novels by this talented author!