Thorlák of Iceland
Chaos To Order Publishing (2018)
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (10/18)
“Thorlák of Iceland” by Aimee O’Connell is the mostly unknown story of an autistic boy from Iceland who was able to rise and become his nation’s Patron Saint. The author begins with Thorlák’s birth one winter windy night in February. He was born in the farmstead of Hliꝺarendi. Son of Halla and her fisherman merchant husband named Thórhall, Thorlák was named after the Viking god of thunder, with the addition of ‘Lák’ which described his personality perfectly as a playful contender hopeful of victory; a trait that would be useful facing all the challenges waiting for him on the path he will forge in history.
Thorlák’s childhood is spent with his two sisters much like all others in Iceland during the twelfth century. Their days were spent laboring the land and tending livestock in the southern coast of Iceland. But even during his mundane farming upbringing, young Thorlák would find himself studying the stars and letting his mind wander through the sky’s mysteries. As an inquisitive young mind, he loved stories, especially about his ancestry as told by his mother. His family had only one book, a Latin book of Psalms, and by the age of six he had already deciphered and memorized it. Through this book he developed an interest in God and human nature and builds a reputation of a child prodigy. But the opportunity of an education that would cultivate his mind and spirit wouldn’t be realized until hard times came upon his family when he was 9 years old, and the Oddaverjar took him in as part of a financial arrangement with his father. That would be the true beginning of “Thorlák’s journey…
Aimee O’Connell did an amazing job researching and presenting readers with a well written biography of Iceland’s patron saint. Her story is filled with little known historical information and inspiration not only for Catholics, but also for any reader, especially those who are or know anyone with Autism. The fact that an autistic boy was able to accomplish what he did in early historical times, through his own issues and the community resistance is remarkable and will serve as a role model for many kids. But the fact that the accomplished author of this book is also autistic is mind blowing and even more inspiring to me. Her narrative voice is almost musical and transports the reader into the story. Her writing skills are impeccable.
“Thorlák of Iceland” by Aimee O’Connell is a five-star biography of an inspiring historical figure from the Catholic Church. His life is definitely inspiring to all. A must-read I recommend with flying colors.