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Be Still the Water

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  134 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Finalist 2019 Canadian Book Club Awards
Shortlisted for the 2017 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction
2017 IPPY Silver Medal Winner

Set in 1906 along the unspoiled shores of Lake Manitoba, Be Still the Water brings us into the fold of the Gudmundsson Family—immigrants determined to begin life anew in the Icelandic farming and fishing community of Siglun
Paperback, 552 pages
Published July 28th 2016 by Perpetual Books
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Barb For fishermen, when the palm and thumb are too wet or messy to be useful, the thrifty fisherman can rotate the hand 180 degrees, put his thumb into…moreFor fishermen, when the palm and thumb are too wet or messy to be useful, the thrifty fisherman can rotate the hand 180 degrees, put his thumb into the second knitted thumb and have a whole “new” pair of mittens(less)

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Average rating 4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  134 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Be Still the Water is a masterfully told epic tale that spans multiple generations that keeps you transfixed from beginning to end.

It isn't often that I read books that span a century - I like my stories to be quick and timely - however, Emilson's writing is at once captivating and mesmerizing and leaves you wanting more. The Nordic setting is enthralling and the characters are unforgettable.

I'm always on the search for new authors from this region and Emilson is definitely one to watch!

Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was intruiged to read a book about Icelandic settlers on Lake Manitoba, Canada, a subject I knew nothing about.

The book begins in 1906 and spans seventy years, through two wars. The small community's central families are interlaced by love, secrets, jealousy, and antipathy. Unspared by grief and loss, these strong people are survivors whose wisdom and love transcend earth's bounds.
♥ Sandi ❣
5 star Thanks to NetGalley and Perpetual Books for allowing me to read and review this book. Published July 19, 2016.

Sometimes the right book comes along at the right time. The book may not be an award winner, nothing really over the top, but it fits your mood and has a story you want to follow. That is what this slow burning novel did and I enjoyed it immensely.

This is an Icelandic community of people that migrated to Canada in the early 1900's. It revolves around the life and fam
I enjoyed this family saga about immigrants from Iceland who settle in Canada. I was totally engaged and absorbed in the life of this family with all of their hardships settling in the Canadian wilderness. Highly recommend for any historical fiction fans.

Thank you to Netgalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Jeanette Lewis
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The story begins present day, an old lady in palliative care only a few days before death will takeover. Asta believes in her ability to astral travel back to the past where she will be able to discover what happened to her younger sister Freyja, the one she was closest to and the one with the inherited beauty. Asta’s difficulty is that with her present failing life, the past and present are blurring and for which the author reveals to the reader only at the end, although the clues are there bef ...more
Karen Kay
I received this from in exchange for a review.

Asta embarks on a quest to bring her sister home. She tells the family’s story some seventy years later.

This is truly 'slow burning' story, almost too slow in some sections. But, it is a well told story of an immigrant family in the early 1900's. Well worth the time to read.

3.25 ☆
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent has been one of my all time favorite books. This one just gained the same status. Absolutely loved this!!!
Amazon has it for $3.99. What are you waiting for?
The family story and family bond is wonderful. The writing makes you feel a part of their lives. If you could I'd suggest devouring this in one sitting. Wow!(thanks Barb for the loaner!)
Amna Ikhlaq
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a digital copy of the book.

This is by far one of the best books I've ever read and definitely the best one I've read so far this year. I was interested in reading this because it follows the story of Icelandic refugees settling in Canada and starting a new life. The story is heart wrenching and beautiful and I could not stop myself from wanting more. This is historical fiction done right!

The book mainly follows the stor
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A lovely historical fiction book about Icelandic immigrants who resettle in Manitoba Canada during the early 1900s. Asta is the main character and at the beginning of most of the chapters she is briefly in the present time and is coherent and communicating with her loved ones. What really interested me was when she would slip from the present and enter a semiconscious or dream state of mind. It was while Asta was dreaming that she would vividly reminisce about her life and the reader is transpor ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A family saga involving three generations, also a rare book about Icelandic immigrants to Canada at a time when immigration was not the hotly debated topic it is now.

Settling down into a fishing and farming life, these hardworking, industrious Icelanders knew their subject and were determined to make a fresh start and do it well. That they succeeded was due to their work ethic and very strong moral values along with strong family ties which never lessened even under immense strain.

Jessica Letizia
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
A beautifully written drama about a family of Icelandic immigrants, Be Still the Water brought something new to the genre of historical fiction. There was a unique juxtaposition of an unreliable narrator, being that she's an old, ailing woman who seems to have a to-be-explained memory problem, with her ability to mentally transport back in time and see everything exactly as it transpired. Good or bad, the characters all feel genuine, and the setting feels very realistic and true to life as an im ...more
Gabriele Goldstone
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to this book because of the setting—I love Manitoba's Interlake. I also love an inter-generational saga and local history. This book did not disappoint. It's a multi-layered, complicated narrative, switching from past to present, and the author never lets the reader down. I liked the Icelandic saga quotes at the beginning of each chapter. It's the kind of book to snuggle up with and get lost in. Beautiful writing, where the setting becomes one of the characters—unpredictable and infl ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Asta, the middle daughter who lives in the shadow of her siblings--fiery Signy, headstrong Leifur and sweet, naive Freyja. When Freyja goes missing, Asta embarks on a quest to bring her sister home. She tells the family's story some seventy years later, while on her deathbed, finally discovering the truth of what happened on those fateful days that set the course for her life and the lives of everyone she loved.
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The main characters in this book are so well developed that I felt like I was part of the story and they were my neighbors. I missed them when I had to stop reading and return to my regular life. I enjoyed learning about Icelandic culture and reading the quotes at the beginning of each chapter which subtly foreshadowed the chapter ahead. It's fun to go back and reread the quotes after you finish each chapter. In a nutshell the book is a saga that addresses some serious topics but felt so very di ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Danie Botha
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A powerful achievement—20th-century historical fiction at its best; with a local Canadian flavor. This is a love story, a life story—a story about childhood dreams, yearnings, heartaches, joys, triumphs, but also about tragedy and deep sorrow. It tells the story of Asta Gudmundsson, growing up an Icelandic immigrant, along with her extended family, on the shores of Lake Manitoba.

With uncanny insight, Emilson renders this tale with colorful images and sweeping prose to haul the reader
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a gem of book!!! I thoroughly enjoyed this. It is not a fast read, I read some before bed, during the day and then my Kindle read it to me via Bluetooth. I found it is a book that needs to be physically read, continually, I would go back and re-read what I had listened to, just so I didn’t miss anything.
I loved the premise of a woman “Asta” nearing the end her life, having the ability to dream and “flyover” her past so she could see and recall her memories. My mother recently passed in a
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Asta is dying. As she looks back and remembers all the events of her long life, we learn about the joys and sadness, the love and the losses, the tragedies and the triumphs of her family, who emigrated to Canada from Iceland in the early 1900s. A family saga, with much authentic historical detail giving an evocative picture of the time and place, I never really managed however to get involved in the lives of the characters. There was too much drama in one family to be convincing, and the storyli ...more
Felicia Allen
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautiful books I have read in a while. The author writes and describes everything so well. You feel every emotion and you can visualize all of the scenery and people. As far as the overall aesthetic of the story, it reminds me of an Icelandic Little House on the Prairie. There is also a wonderful tear inducing twist at the end that I never saw coming. This is definitely a must read again book.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story follows the life of Asta and her Icelandic immigrant family in a small community in Canada. It describes her in the last days of her life searching her memories to find a clue into her little sister's disappearance when they were teenagers.
I like how well the characters are described in this story. The story was well developed and a good pace between the present and past.
Linda B. Vuono
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Breathtaking and believable, the characters come to life and you feel as if you're in the moment with Asta and her family and friends.
This book was hard to put down. It was written in such a wonderful perspective.
This has been the best book I've read in a very long time.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this yarn! Fascinating glimpse into immigrant life in Manitoba as well as the Icelandic settlers. The romantic drama seemed realistic as well and I didn't want to leave the story without knowing what had happened to Freyja. Really. 4.5 stars
Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Thank you Net Galley for the free review.

Interesting family story about Icelanders who are settling around Lake Manitoba in Canada. I like the unfamiliar language and the food that is mentioned, like Vinarterta. The story is told from the viewpoint of Asta now an old woman in a retirement home and her " time travel" back to her younger days when she was growing up and when her sister disappeared.
Lillian Ochoa
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love it

This is truly an amazing Love story beautifully written highly recommend. I usually don't read love stories not really into them but after reading where children run I wanted to read more from this Author this is a great book. A must read.
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this family saga/ love story set in the narrows of Lake Manitoba, an area not far from my home. The quality of the writing is excellent, so much so that I was completely drawn into the story and read it as continuously as possible over a short period.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I won this book from Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you!

Wow. Wow. And wow. What an amazing story with a 'didn't see it coming' reveal at the end. I cannot wait until the next installment!
Amy Rennie
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was really nice surprise! It is a really interesting, moving, engaging, well-written novel. I didn't want it to end.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow what a great book! Asta (pronounced Owsta) is dying. She is reliving her life and wondering what happened to her young sister who disappeared many years ago. Some chapters are of her in the care home and others are of her life. Great story!
Cathy Hagler
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply Wonderful

A saga so full of life that I could not put it down. Every character became more endeared with each page. Definitely worth the read!
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book- can't wait for the sequel.
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Karen Emilson was born and raised in southern Ontario, the daughter of Irish immigrants on her mother’s side; and an eclectic mix of Swiss, German and English on her father’s side. She spent all her free time as a child reading books and writing stories, dreaming one day of becoming a writer.

In 1982 she came to Manitoba as a young bride, settling in at the Nordheim farm in Siglunes. Ka