Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius
Louise Erdrich meets Jo Nesbø in this spellbinding Swedish novel that follows a young indigenous woman as she struggles to defend her family’s reindeer herd and culture amidst xenophobia, climate change, and a devious hunter whose targeted kills are considered mere theft in the eyes of the law.
It is winter, north of the Arctic Circle. A few hours of pale light are all the sun has to offer before the landscape is once more wrapped in darkness. This the land of the Sámi, Scandinavia’s indigenous people. One day when she goes skiing along, nine-year-old Elsa—daughter of reindeer herders—witnesses a man brutally killing her reindeer calf, Nástegallu.
Elsa is threatened into silence and refuses to tell anyone about what she saw, but she carries her secret as a dark weight on her heart. Not only are the reindeer the Sámi’s livelihood, but the animals also serve an important spiritual role; attacking a reindeer is an attack on the culture itself. Even though she’s just a child, Elsa sees how persistent violence among neighbors and indifference from authorities cause those close to her to lose hope, and even their will to live.
Ten years later, Elsa tries to find her way in her community, where male elders expect young women to know their place. Meanwhile, the hatred and threats against the Sámi keep escalating. When Elsa finds herself the target of the man who killed her reindeer calf all those years ago, something inside of her finally breaks, leading her to a final catastrophic confrontation.
Stolen portrays a young woman’s struggle to defend her heritage in a world where xenophobia is on the rise, climate change looms, and young people choose suicide in the face of collective desperation. The novel also portrays the tensions that arise when modern ideas come up against a traditional culture.
In Elsa, award-winning writer Ann-Helén Laestadius has created an unforgettable young heroine, fighting for honor, acceptance, and defending her way of life in a community under attack. Part coming-of-age story, part love song to a disappearing natural world, and part electrifying countdown to a dramatic resolution, Stolen is sweeping storytelling at its best.