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LaurenBDavis

LAUREN B. DAVIS

Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

To Siberia

To Siberia - Per Petterson OUT STEALING HORSES was one of my top picks when it was released here, and so I began reading TO SIBERIA with much excitement. Per Petterson is a writer of rare ability. His prose is so clear and crisp, so precise, as to be a sort of metaphor for the northern landscapes of his literary visions. The lyricism comes not from flowery word choices... on the contrary, Petterson eschews all such flourishes... but from his images and his tone. His voice is restrained, somewhat elegiac, and unmistakable. Pick any paragraph, they are all a pleasure to read.This book was written in 1996, before 2003's OUT STEALING HORSES, and it is interesting to see the writer's development. Whereas OUT STEALING HORSES takes place in Norway, this book is set in rural WWII-era Denmark. The narrator is an unnamed girl and explore her relationshp with her older brother, Jesper. Jesper dreams of escaping to Morocco; the narrator longs for the cold clear openness of Siberia. And so Petterson hints that no matter how deeply these two are connected, their futures will separate them. The family is fractured -- the parents negligent at best, the grandfather commits suicide. And then the Nazi's arrive and all their lives are inevitably altered. The first half of the book is splendid, with profoundly moving scenes -- intimate and unforgettable. The second half, wherein the narrator wanders through various Scandinavian towns, is somehow less appealing, and I found myself thinking something was missing, some focus lost. Perhaps it was because, when the siblings separate, the book losses its central metaphor. On the other hand, the girl's loneliness and isolation, her inability to form human relationships, is well crafted and effective, even though, for me, it doesn't hold the power of the book's beginning. The end is one of those literary moments that feel achingly real, in that one wishes there was more to say and yet there simply is not. Petterson's enormous talent makes beauty out of the smallest details and tiny moments. It's a pleasure to read. If this book doesn't accomplish quite what OUT STEALING HORSES did, I can't fault it for that. It's still better than most books out there, and I can't wait to see what he writes next.