FOR LOVE OF NORWAY <i> by Pal Espolin Johnson (University of Nebraska Press: $11.95) </i>
One of Pal Johnson’s first novels, “For Love of Norway,” resembles a series of snapshots of life in Mostad, a village of a dozen or so households in the Lofoten Islands. Magda, an independent, resourceful woman, joins her husband in Mostad in the early 1900s, and her life mirrors the changes that the 20th Century brings to the tiny settlement. Before World War I, Magda’s life differs only slightly from that of her ancestors, centuries earlier: She carries water from the spring, cards wool, weaves cloth, presides over births and deaths, and watches the men of the town row out on the treacherous sea to fish. The introduction of technology eases life in Mostad at first, but it gradually lures the villagers away to a less strenuous life on the mainland. Johnson’s spare, clean prose echoes the laconic speech of his characters and the harsh world they inhabit.