Review by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
I received a copy of a little black book in the mail one day with greetings from an EE Ryan. The title read The Odd Saga of the American and a Curious Icelandic Flock and it did make me curious.
The back cover reveals that EE Ryan is the pen name of the author, who currently lives in Massachusetts, and that his story was inspired by his studies in Iceland.
The protagonist, Alex Welch, was happy to get the opportunity to study biology in Iceland for a semester abroad.
However, the experience wasn’t exactly what he had hoped for—coupled with concerns over his family and friends back home after the horrific events of September 11, 2001—and peculiar, if rather unbelievable circumstances bring his studies to an abrupt end.
The story is humorously written and the characters are interesting, such as Snorri the veterinarian who teaches Alex about the ways of Icelandic farmers, and Flaco, a mysterious Spaniard whose unpleasant demeanor is tolerated by his “friends” because he attracts the attention of women while out on the town.
EE Ryan is obviously a good storyteller who made some funny observations about Icelandic culture during his stay in the country, which certainly ring true.
I especially enjoyed his descriptions of the Icelandic countryside; of farmers who drink A LOT of black coffee and try to outdo each other when it comes to hospitality with ever growing buffets of pastries and cakes.
Overall, I liked EE Ryan’s little tale, which (whether true or not) I took to be his publishing debut. However, it did strike me as incomplete on various levels and as such perhaps not ready for publication quite yet.
The story is short; basically a short story or a novella at best. It could, with a little more meat on the bones, either have made a good chapter in a collection of stories or, with extensive additions, a fully-fledged novel.
To me it seemed there is plenty of room to further develop the characters and storyline, perhaps peppered with some of the author’s other observations about the “curious Icelandic flock” and descriptions of the country.
I’m generally not a big fan of short stories or collections of such; telling a complete story in a span of a few pages is tricky.
It is possible, of course, and in fact I just read a collection of novellas by Kim Stanley Robinson from 1989, Escape from Kathmandu, that I can recommend (especially while traveling in Nepal).
EE Ryan did not only make me curious about his book, he also made me curious enough to want to read more about Alex Welch’s adventures. I would encourage him to continue writing.
The book is available on amazon.com.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – [email protected]
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir graduated with a Bachelors degree in communication studies from the University of Erfurt, Germany, in 2004. In 2006, she graduated with a Masters degree in journalism from the University of Westminster, London. She has worked as the web editor for Iceland Review since October 2006. Eygló received an award for her entries in a nationwide short story competition in 1997, 1998 and 1999.