Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Out Stealing Horses

We had a little larger group today than usual and I want to welcome David, Sylvia and Jessi. Thanks for diving in and participating in the discussion - something I realize isn't easy when faced with our animated group of readers.

Joanne started off by saying that in Petterson's presentation of Trond as a young man and then as an older man, she felt she had two slices of bread - she wanted some meat. We returned to this thought several times during the discussion. Repeated frustration that the peripheral parts and characters weren't fleshed out was also expressed. Someone said they would have preferred less flashbacks, but Jessi thought the story was told just as it rolled out in Trond's mind. We finally concluded that the story pacing and lack of details was exactly that - it's because those were things he knew and therefore didn't need to supply.

A huge question to us. What happened to Trond's father after he left? Did he go to be with Lars' mother? We batted that one around. When Lars' had to shoot the dog at his mother's request, he mentioned he had a stepfather. We came to the conclusion that Lars' father had passed away, having never recovered from his injury. (It would be so much convenient had Petterson supplied names - significant that he doesn't?) Mary read us the section where Trond wanted to ask Lars if he had stolen his years with his father, so he too suspected this. But then when Jon returns and takes over the farm, we assumed there was no stepfather to contest with. Apparently it wasn't material to the story, but inquiring minds want to know.

So much is left unsaid - and perhaps that's the appeal of this short novel. The New Yorks Times Book Review named it one of the 10 best books of 2007. In the final very short, confusing third section - we wondered about Trond's anger in Sweden and Wilma said she asked her husband, a WW II buff, for some insight. He said that Sweden wanted to be neutral, like Switzerland. That's why the information network was set up so close to the border, but perhaps Sweden's neutrality was part of Trond's rage? He said had he hit the man, he realized his life would have turned out differently. Connie wondered if that's perhaps, not that he would have been arrested, but that his internal self values would have changed.

Because this was Trond's story, we were left guessing at many points. They couldn't take the bank money from Sweden so Trond's mother bought him a new suit with it. He was so handsome in it and she became animated and happy. Kathy wondered if perhaps he might have reminded her of her husband in younger days.

We did feel that Trond became his father in his distancing himself from his daughters, though we did see the narrative ending with a hopeful note of reconciliation. Trond didn't supply much from the years between his youth in the forest with his father for those two summers and his return to the forest, which he said he realized he needed. The stark facts of his marriages and daughters are all the meat that Joanne was not going to get. It was a coming of age story for some very unlucky and ill-timed youths.