Published by Graywolf Press on April 17th 2007
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The book that began with an ending, ended up winning me over. If you look back on your life what will you see? Will you be happy with your relationships? Will you be proud of your actions? Will you be haunted by past events that forever changed your life. Actions have consequences. How do consequences affect a person for life?
I read this book when it first came out with my book club and it blew me away in a very quiet subtle way. Par Peterson is an award winning Norwegian writer who introduces us to 67 year old Trond Sander who is living an isolated lifestyle. He lives in a rustic cabin and is determined to spend the rest of his life living in virtual isolation. His second wife has died and he has forgotten/neglected to tell his adult daughters his whereabouts. He has a meeting with one of his neighbors – someone from his past – and that meeting causes him to reflect back on his life. He specifically looks back at the summer of 1948 when he was living in a cabin with his father.
One day Trond’s friend Jon shows up and asks him to go on an adventure with him. An adventure which begins with going for a ride on “borrowed” horses and ends in tragedy. A loaded gun tragically changes the lives of not just the teens but their families as well. Initially, I thought this tragedy would be what transforms this man’s life but it was only the catalyst. Young Trond learns that there is more to his father then he initially thought. This book is about relationships and how we view our relationships and the “truths” we learn about our relationships and those we are in a relationship with. Whew!
One death destroys already damaged relationships. Relationships that have been previously damaged by activities during wartime. A time War ravaged the world. A time when a teen learns about his father’s involvement during the Norwegian resistance during the war. A time when a man falls in love with a married woman. A time when a young man learns about the harsh realities of life, when you learn your parents have faults and aren’t everything you think they are. A time when people disappear from our lives and an abandoned teen is faced with life altering decisions.
This book goes back and forth between the present time (1999) and 1948. There is such eloquence and beauty in the storytelling of this novel. The Author shows us Trond’s adolescent and adult interpretations of the events of his life. I have used the word “subtle” a lot in this review, but I can’t think of a better word to sum of the beauty of this book – it is subtle. Minimalistic is a word often used while describing this book as well.
Trond experiences strong emotions but has difficulty or is perhaps resistant to expressing those emotions. Petterson allows the reader to make interpretations to those emotions. He shows us a man, we see his loses, his pain, his suffering but yet do we truly know him? I find myself recommending this book over and over again. This book is not a BIG book but it is a powerful one. I love books that cause me to think and feel. I also love books where the environment/landscape is also just as much as character as the “living” ones in the book. This book was not only beautifully translated into English, it is beautifully melancholy – just as melancholy as Trond himself. This book is about love, acceptance, loss, secrets, regrets, decisions, tragedy, lust, yearning, and growth.