STARRED REVIEW
February 2023

The End of Drum-Time

By Hanna Pylväinen
Review by
Echoing America’s dark history of settlers forcing their religion on Indigenous peoples, The End of Drum-Time will leave a lasting impression on all readers of historical fiction.
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Set in the 1850s in a remote Swedish village close to the Arctic Circle, Whiting Award winner Hanna Pylväinen’s second novel, The End of Drum-Time, tells the story of Lutheran minister Lars Levi Laestadius, known as Mad Lasse for his impassioned sermons and strict religious observance. Mad Lasse’s goal is to convert the Sami people to Christianity and break the cycle of alcohol dependency that he believes threatens the very souls of the Indigenous reindeer herders. 

When shaman and prominent herder Biettar Rasti experiences a religious awakening in Mad Lasse’s church, it sets off a string of events that rips through the small village, leaving it profoundly shattered. Biettar leaves his diminished herd to his son, Ivvár, and takes up residence in Mad Lasse’s home, where he can study by the pastor’s side. 

Abandoned and angry, Ivvár begins to come into town more frequently, purchasing liquor from the village store and trying to rekindle a romance with Risten, a Sami woman from a successful herding family. But when Lasse’s daughter Willa crosses paths with Ivvár, they become infatuated with each other, and eventually Willa breaks ties with her family and community to join the Sami for their annual migration from the tundra to the sea. 

Pylväinen’s first book, We Sinners (2012), was a collection of interlocking stories about a deeply religious family struggling with loss of faith and the temptations of the secular world in modern-day Michigan. The final story, “Whisky Priest,” introduced Mad Lasse and his wife, Brita. Along with these characters, Pylväinen carries forward her sensitivity to the power, comfort and destructiveness of belief into her second novel. 

With engrossing details of reindeer herding, a beautifully rendered setting and powerful echoes of America’s own dark history of settlers forcing their religion on Indigenous peoples, The End of Drum-Time will leave a lasting impression on all readers of historical fiction. 

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The End of Drum-Time

The End of Drum-Time

By Hanna Pylväinen
Holt
ISBN 9781250822901

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