four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Out Stealing HorsesSixty-seven-year-old widower Trond Sander has retired to a remote, ramshackle cabin in the woods of eastern Norway to live out the rest of his days in quiet and solitude. A visit from his new neighbor, however, triggers long-buried memories of the summer of 1948, when Trond, only 15, stayed with his father in a similar cabin. As Trond relives the long days of logging and baling hay, exploring the woods, and stealing the horses of a local landowner for a midnight ride with his best friend Jon, he struggles to understand the events of that fateful summer and the ways in which they shaped his adult life.
Graywolf Press. 258 pages. $22. ISBN: 1555974708

Guardian (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Out Stealing Horses is tinged with an autumnal sense of loss and the self-examination of an old man looking back on his life. … This book is a minor masterpiece of death and delusion in a Nordic land." Ian Thompson

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"A fairly short novel with a timescape of half a century that seems to have left out nothing important is a bit of a miracle. … The characters living and dead are equally palpable, another small wonder of Out Stealing Horses." Thomas McGuane

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"While the writing can be plain, Anne Born’s translation of Out Stealing Horses gives us clause after clause in a way that would drive a persnickety English teacher crazy, but effectively captures the way Trond connects life to the natural world. … Petterson accepts with great tenderness the way his characters respond to fate, and the varied nature of their resilience is what makes the novel, in the end, so moving." Charles Oberndorf

Daily Telegraph (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"The plotting is so subtle that one barely notices questions being raised and then, cleverly, answered. By the end, when all the pieces fall into place, we can see how elegantly Petterson has constructed matters, letting us live in a mystery we don’t know needs solving until the solution is presented." Patrick Ness

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Per Petterson fluently jumbles his chronology, sustaining mysteries within several subplots and vivifying evergreen ideas about determinism and the bonds of family. But the real trick is in the way everything finally, neatly converges into an emotional jolt." Sean Howe

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Out Stealing Horses is the kind of novel you finish off with tears welling—not so much because the dreamlike narrative has come to its end, but because the prose at the heart of this story of love and acceptance is so overwhelmingly beautiful. … There is one bone to pick with Petterson: The women, largely faceless and nameless, recede, happy to offer their uncomplaining support to the menfolk." Andrea Hoag

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 3 of 5 Stars
"For some readers, the rhythm of this prose may prove tiresome, with thoughts and sensations piling up like so many logs jammed at the bend of a river. Also, an extended flashback to his father’s experience during the war years muddles the story line, making it hard for the reader to keep track of the chronology." Amy Woods Butler

Critical Summary

Per Petterson’s tale of love, forgiveness, and the nature of evil has already swept up four prestigious literary awards: two notable prizes in Norway, the Independent (UK) Foreign Fiction Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. This perceptive, poignant novel blends the exhilaration of youth and the impassive recollections of old age with subtle plotting and biting observations on the question of fate versus free will. Critics differed over Petterson’s prose: some found it lackluster, while others thought its simplicity and frankness cleverly captured Trond’s voice. The Minneapolis Star Tribune also took issue with Petterson’s bland female characters. However, Petterson’s unforgettable portrait of a man trying to come to terms with his past will linger long after the last page.

Also by the Author

In the Wake (2006): In Per Petterson’s critically acclaimed American debut, Arvid Jansen wanders through life struggling to come to terms with the terrible ferry accident that claimed the lives of his family.