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In 1948, when he is fifteen, Trond spends a summer in the country with his father. The events - the accidental death of a child, his best friend's feelings of guilt and eventual disappearance, his father's decision to leave the family for another woman - will change his life forever. An early morning adventure out stealing horses leaves Trond bruised and puzzled by his friend Jon's sudden breakdown. The tragedy which lies behind this scene becomes the catalyst for the two boys' families gradually to fall apart. As a 67-year-old man, and following the death of his wife, Trond has moved to an isolated part of Norway to live in solitude. But a chance encounter with a character from the fateful summer of 1948 brings the painful memories of that year flooding back, and will leave Trond even more convinced of his decision to end his days alone.
Award-winning Norwegian novelist Petterson renders the meditations of Trond Sander, a man nearing 70, dwelling in self-imposed exile at the eastern edge of Norway in a primitive cabin. Trond's peaceful existence is interrupted by a meeting with his only neighbor, who seems familiar. The meeting pries loose a memory from a summer day in 1948 when Trond's friend Jon suggests they go out and steal horses. That distant summer is transformative for Trond as he reflects on the fragility of life while discovering secrets about his father's wartime activities. The past also looms in the present: Trond realizes that his neighbor, Lars, is Jon's younger brother, who "pulls aside the fifty years with a lightness that seems almost indecent." Trond becomes immersed in his memory, recalling that summer that shaped the course of his life while, in the present, Trond and Lars prepare for the winter, allowing Petterson to dabble in parallels both bold and subtle. Petterson coaxes out of Trond's reticent, deliberate narration a story as vast as the Norwegian tundra.