Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.

Out Stealing Horses is a novel that immediately grabs hold of readers's attention. I was hooked from the moment Petterson describes Trond's friend, Jon:

Jon came often to our door, at all hours, wanting me to go out with him: shooting hares, walking through the forest in the pale moonlight...balancing on yellow was risky... He never knocked, just came quietly up the path from the river...Even in the morning early when I was still asleep, I might feel a restlessness far into my dream...He smiled his little smiled and squinted...'Are you coming?' he said. 'We're going out stealing horses.'

The phrase "out stealing horses," has a double meaning, one for the son and quite a different one for the father. Stealth is an important element in the novel, though there's no actual stealing: the boys never intend to take Barkald's horses.
The point-of-view, expertly executed by Petterson, moves back and forth in time. Readers see Trond as a fifteen-year-old, enjoying his last summer of  innocence, and Trond as a sixty-seven year-old man vexed with a neighbor that could be his doppelganger.

Though Trond would rather not revisit his past, the summer he played "out stealing horses" comes back to him in his older years and in his dreams. As a teenager, Trond is blissfully unaware of  anything beyond the beauty of the woods and the game he plays with his friend, Jon. Two unrelated accidents, a shooting and a fall, soon set a whole different series of events in motion that are as irreversible as the stacked timber that  falls in the Glomma river.

Trond's father is not the man Trond thinks him to be--not the man he trusts and admires. The pair, Trond and his father, have been staying in a rented cabin in the furthermost reaches of Norway. Though their time cutting trees bonds father and son together; sadly, it is also a precursor to betrayal. Petterson won one of the highest literary awards, the Dublin IMPAC award, for this evocative novel.

Review by Chantal Walvoord