We were going out stealing horses. That was what he said, standing at the door to the cabin where I was spending the summer with my father. I was fifteen. It was 1948 and one of the first days of July. Three years earlier the Germans had left, but I can’t remember that we talked about them any longer. At least my father did not. He never said anything about the war. – from Out Stealing Horses, page 15 –
In his sixty-seventh year, Trond Sander purchases a house in the Norwegian countryside and seeks the solitude and silence for which he longs.
All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That it often did. I have been lucky. But even then, for instance in the middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence. – from Out Stealing Horses, page 5 –
Trond’s only company is a dog named Lyra and an older man who lives in a cabin near the river not too far from Trond’s home. There in the desolate and beautiful wilderness and as he gets to know his neighbor, Trond begins to remember the summer of 1948 when he was fifteen years old and on the cusp of becoming a man. It is these memories which drive the novel forward – a slow unraveling of one fateful summer where everything changed. As Trond reveals the multiple layers of his past, he comes to grips with his present and begins to gain an understanding of the man he has become.
Out Stealing Horses is in part about a boy’s relationship with his father which is both touching and compelling. Trond’s father is a complex man with a mysterious past – a man who worked for the Norwegian underground during the Nazi occupation, and who has formed connections which the young Trond is just beginning to understand.
Of course I had my father, but it was not the same. He was a grown man with a secret life behind the one that I knew about, and maybe even one behind that, and I no longer knew I could trust him. – from Out Stealing Horses, page 174 –
Petterson seamlessly moves between the past and present, gradually revealing each character and putting together the pieces of Trond’s life. This is a novel rich with emotion, one that explores pain, betrayal, identity, and loss. The language of the novel is evocative, simple and luminous.
I was mesmerized by this book. Seemingly a simple tale, it later reveals itself to be a complex study of grief and loss. This is not a book to be read quickly, but one which should be savored.