Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: "Out Stealing Horses" by Per Petterson

Trond is in his late 60s, widowed for three years, and has just moved to a tiny house in the very rural Norwegian forest.  He wanted to get back there, to the forest and the rivers and lakes.  He is fixing up a house that barely has indoor plumbing and has but one nearby neighbor.  He relishes the solitude he shares with his dog Lyra.  Being in the forest reminds him of the summer he spent with his father in the forest near the Swedish border.  That was the summer he was fifteen, and Trond got to know his father in a new way...  and was the last time he saw his father.

This is another book club pick, and I've been such a procrastinator with those books, that I actually read this a week before our meeting!  Yay!  It helps that this was a fairly quick read, and very well written too.  It has been awhile since I've read anything by a Scandinavian  author and I'd forgotten how much I like the writing style.  It tends to be more sparse and deliberate.  The scenery is something amazing too.

This story is a coming of age story, yes.  But not just a coming into adulthood story, but also a coming into a next stage of adulthood - not quite end of life, but a peaceful reflection period.  The way the narration moves between the present and the past is practically seamless and makes total sense.  But there are two story lines here that, given that this is one character's life, are interconnected.  Or at least one has a profound affect upon the other.  The summer of his childhood has a few remarkable and surprising events.  Including the one we all have at one point or another - where we realize that our parents are actual humans too, and in that humanity are entitled to their own secrets and past and whatnot.  Trond feels the twist of this discovery (and his father does have an unusual story of his own) and the reader does too.  The trick is to see how these past events have shaped the person he is at 67.

There is a recurring thought that works its way throughout the book that really got me.  It is "we decide for ourselves when it will hurt".   So true.

Out Stealing Horses
by Per Petterson
Graywolf Press, 2005.  First published 2003.
258 pages
Source:  Library


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