(Review) Grendel's Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife by Susan Signe Morrison

Publication Date: September 25, 2015
Publisher: Top Hat Books
Genre: Historical fiction, Anglo-Saxon literature, Beowulf, Grendel.
Paperback and eBook
Pages: 238
ISBN-10: 1785350099
Source: Free copy from Susan Signe Morrison and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for a review. 
Rating: 5 stars for excellent. 
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An amber bead. A gold and glass drinking horn. A ring engraved with Thor’s hammer – all artifacts from a Germanic tribe that carved a space for itself through brutality and violence on a windswept land. Brimhild weaves peace and conveys culture to the kingdom, until the secret of her birth threatens to tear apart the fragile political stability. This is her story – the tale of Grendel’s Mother. She is no monster as portrayed in the Old English epic, Beowulf. We learn her side of the story and that of her defamed child. We see the many passages of her life: the brine-baby who floated mysteriously to shore; the hall-queen presiding over the triumphant building of the golden hall Heorot and victim of sexual and political betrayal; the exiled mere-wife, who ekes out a marginal life by an uncanny bog as a healer and contends with the menacing Beowulf; and the seer, who prophesized what will occur to her adopted people. We learn how the invasion by brutal men is not a fairy tale, but a disaster doomed to cycle relentlessly through human history. Only the surviving women can sing poignant laments, preserve a glittering culture, and provide hope for the future.

My Thoughts: 
Back in high school I remember reading (or not reading) Beowulf. For me, Beowulf was a struggle and I don't remember grasping the story. The story seemed masculine and with uncouth characters. In 2013, I read Beowulf and fell in love with the epic poem. I love the history behind the story. I love the time period when it was written. I love the characters. I love the themes. I love the dramatic scenes. I love the writing style. 

There are several reasons I have given Grendel's Mother 5 stars for excellent. 
1. The author's knowledge of the subject, and especially her knowledge of medieval history. 
2. Secondary stories of Grendel's father and relatives. Grendel's mother's parents and parentage.  
3. A beautiful love story. 
4. A twist on the story of Beowulf. The author creates, a what might have been, and it is a thought provoking perspective on the characters motives and reactions. 
5. Grendel's Mother is still a masculine story, but it's balanced by several strong female characters. Each of these women are representative of varying personalities and character development. For example, a female servant who has every right to feel bitter. Instead, her strength is in fortitude, wisdom, and sacrificial love. 
6. It is believed Beowulf was passed down in an oral tradition before being written. I read aloud some of Grendel's Mother. I'd read silently through the first page before realizing the writing style had a particular cadence reminding me of poetry. 
7. Grendel's Mother has several examples of song lyrics. These songs give voice to love and life. 
8. Grendel's Mother portrays the story of the everyday life and labor of both the common people and those who lived in the court. From hanging seaweed to dry, to learning herbal lore. From pagan religion, to Christianity. From an apprenticeship, to raiding parties. 

Further links for study:

“What a gift! Grendel’s Mother is sure to become an integral part of every class on Beowulf.” -Candace Robb, author of the Owen Archer Mystery Series and, as Emma Campion, A Triple Knot
“This fascinating narrative is to readers today what John Gardner’s Grendel was to readers of the 1970s.” -Haruko Momma, Professor of English, New York University

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Susan Signe Morrison writes on topics lurking in the margins of history, ranging from recently uncovered diaries of a teenage girl in World War II to medieval women pilgrims, excrement in the Middle Ages, and waste. Susan Morrison is Professor of English at Texas State University. She grew up in New Jersey by the Great Swamp, a National Wildlife Refuge with terrain not unlike that of Grendel’s Mother’s mere in Beowulf. Committed to bringing the lives of medieval women to a wider audience and making the ethics of waste fundamental to our study of literature, Susan can be found at grendelsmotherthenovel.com, homefrontgirldiary.com, and amedievalwomanscompanion.com and tweets @medievalwomen.
Susan’s BA is from Swarthmore College and her A.M./Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Brown University. She has studied in Germany and taught in the former East Germany. Susan’s publications have appeared in such journals as The Yearbook of Langland Studies, Medievalia et Humanistica, Medieval Feminist Forum, The Chaucer Review, Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The New York Times, Women In German Yearbook , Journal of Popular Culture,  Amsterdamer Beitr√§ge zur √§lteren Germanistik, as well as numerous book chapters. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter and son.
For more information visit Susan’s website.

Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, March 28
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, March 30
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Thursday, March 31
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Monday, April 4
Interview at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, April 5
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, April 6
Guest Post A Literary Vacation
Thursday, April 7
Review at Impressions In Ink
Sunday, April 10
Review at Sprinkled With Words
Tuesday, April 12
Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Thursday, April 14
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review
Friday, April 15
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Grendel's Mother