UI alum hosts book launch through Prairie Lights at Harvest Preserve

Established Iowa City author Lori Erickson hosted a book launch Wednesday for her most recent work, The Soul of the Family Tree, which combines her personal heritage with Scandinavian lore and culture.


Cole Krutzfield/ The Daily Iowan

Author Lori Erickson signs a copy of her new book “The Soul of The Family Tree” while talking with friends at the Harvest Preserve in Iowa City, on Wed. Aug 25, 2021. “The Soul of The Family Tree,” which was released Aug. 24, 2021, is about Lori Erickson and her quest to learn about the Vikings and explore her Scandinavian genealogical heritage. (Cole Krutzfield/ The Daily Iowan)

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

After taking part in the popular trend of at-home DNA testing, author and UI alum Lori Erickson was inspired to combine her own ancestral connections with the historical spirits of Norwegian culture — Vikings. 

Her latest book, The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit, officially released on Tuesday, and is available for purchase at Prairie Lights and other book-selling venues, as well as Erickson’s website. 

The author launched the book at a discussion and book signing followed by a potluck at the Harvest Preserve, a nature preserve in northeast Iowa City, on Wednesday evening. There, she read a section about her connections to Leif Erikson, the famous Viking explorer with whom she shares a similar name. 

The Soul of the Family Tree delves into a long history of Scandinavian experiences and Norse mythology, which Erickson ties into her own past growing up in Decorah, Iowa. The city has a large Norwegian-American population and hosts many cultural festivities to celebrate its residents. 

The premise fits in with Erickson’s usual writing genre, which spans the intersection between travel and spirituality.

During a discussion after the reading, Erickson said the book was a natural progression from its predecessor, Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper, which deals with sacred death rituals. She also noted that personal experiences with loss also spurred her to research her family. 

“My last book was about mortality, and then this book is about dead people in a different way,” she said. “When you lose someone, you lose their story, and so I hope people will read this book and talk to older people about stories that otherwise might be lost.” 

After the discussion, a sculpture was unveiled, inspired by two other stone sculptures of Leif Erikson in Newfoundland, and Gudrid the Far-Traveler in Iceland, both Vikings who Erickson covers in her book. 

Sculptor Doug Paul, who also designed the Harvest Preserve’s spiritually significant stone circle shrine, modeled the sculpture after Erickson’s Welsh Corgi, Cody, and explained the significance of the statue and its name, which originates from the Buddhist term, “bodhisattva.”

“If you know the story of bodhisattva, a spiritual seeker on the way to enlightenment, this is Cody-sattva,” Paul said. 

Erickson noted that, ultimately, her ancestors’ stories aren’t universal, but that she believes her book can spur anyone into researching more about their familial history, and even their own spirituality by discovering ancestral heritage. 

“If you’re interested in genealogy, it’s the most interesting thing in the world. If you’re not interested in it, it’s the most boring thing in the world,” Erickson said. “I hope to convince readers of my book to be interested in it as a way of entering into their own story.”