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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Contrary to the title, Out Stealing Horses is not about rounding up the neighbor's horses and galloping away. The title refers to holding onto tree limbs and letting go right as horses pass underneath to chance a few moments of sheer joy as two young men, two main characters in this sweep of a beautiful book set in Norway around the post WWII era, share their early youth and are bound through memory for the rest of their lives.

This was chosen by the New York Times as the Best Book of 2007 and rights have sold in 24 countries. The book begins with 67 year old Trond Sander, living alone in a cabin deep in the Norwegian woods where he seeks refuge from the tragic death of his wife. While reading this book, I felt like the novelist Mr. Petterson parted the curtains and took me by his own hand into the snowy fields and innermost heart and mind of Trond. Mr. Petterson gently unfolds layer upon layer of one's man history, then stitches it back together, bringing us into the present without realizing we ever left it. He does this with such ease and sparse but double rich prose and depth of human understanding that at the end, we are completely satisfied even though we may not know the whole truth about this man and the relationship he had with his beloved father.

In the background are hints of spying for the Resistance during the war, secret excursions into Sweden, death-accidental and otherwise-great love in troubled times. On the surface is a story about 67 year old Trond who discovers a childhood acquaintance also living in the lonely woods far from the comforts of civilization.

I would chose this book as my favorite for 2007 but it also rates up there as one of the best I've read as an adult. Posted 2/24/2008