Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Petterson's Out Stealing Horses is 2007's best book

Books now read in ’07: 113
Title: Out Stealing Horses
Author: Per Petterson
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 12-2
Pages: 288

At some point during our youth we come to understand that our parents have lives beyond that which we know; that there is a complexity to their lives that we did not previously recognize and that their lives are not limited to home or to their children or their spouse.

Such a realization comes to Trond, the narrator of Norwegian writer Per Petterson’s superb Out Stealing Horses, the summer he is 15. World War II has been over only a few years, Trond has been reunited with his father and, now, in a few brief months he has the rare opportunity to spend time alone with his father and to work alongside him.

Trond discovers that his father was part of the resistance during the war – something his father has never talked about – and that he has a romantic relationship with a farm woman, who aided him in his efforts against the Germans. The woman is the mother of Trond’s closest friend.

Trond looks back on this summer from the perspective of some 50 years. He has taken himself to a remote part of Norway – where the novel is set – to heal from wounds suffered during an accident that claimed the life of his wife. His wounds are far more emotional than physical. Trond is clearly seeking to grasp life more firmly, and is determined to do so in his own way and with little assistance.

Events occur that remind Trond of that distant summer. In looking back it was clearly a summer of loss – a summer in which he was to see his father for the last time; a summer in which he was to lose his best friend and in which that friend was to lose much, much more.

Yet in looking back, Trond also comes to realize that in their brief time together his father taught him lessons about life that can offer him a source of strength and healing and consolation in his time of present need.

Petterson makes few judgments about his characters, instead he recognizes that life takes us down pathways that we would not have chosen for ourselves, but which we must now find the strength to endure.

Out Stealing Horses is wise and touching; spare, yet lyrical -- superbly written, superbly told -- it is a powerful novel of loss and self-discovery.

It is the best book of 2007.

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