Friday, February 1, 2008

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson

The best novel of 2007.

How we translate our past actions and experiences is at least as important as those actions and experiences themselves. Out Stealing Horses, itself superbly translated from the Norwegian, follows the arc of Trond Sander's life as he reflects during a quiet retirement on the violent summer that marked his coming of age. Forced to confront a long-avoided past, he finally deliberates on the adolescent loss, aching beauty, and harrowing grief that underpinned his adulthood. With finely drawn characters, a stark natural setting, and haunting minimalist prose, this quiet, powerful, and spare novel of acceptance is a meditative tale for all.

Well, that's what I initially wrote for my bookstore's website. On a deadline, with a word limit. Orwell would be ashamed. Here's a shelf-talker I wrote for the paperback release, something a little more personal and closer to the truth of my experience:

"I’ve recommended this book more than any other in the last year. It’s achingly personal and wonderfully encompassing, and almost effortlessly shadows and shares my thoughts. Petterson quietly drew me into Trond’s childhood, an innocence that was too quickly shattered and thrust into adulthood, and the unconfronted pain that took a lifetime to understand and accept. This story feels like a quiet talk with trusted friend, someone who knows all your secrets and weaknesses and who is always ready with a steady hand, even when you don’t know you need it. The final line, coming at the end of a such a powerful, uplifting and beautiful tale, reads like poetry and feels like the silence at the end of symphony, in that moment between the last fading sound and the first clap of realization that a masterpiece has just been performed."

Now I don't sound like a washed-up book critic with a thesaurus and a style sheet of recommended "review words."

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