Trond's abandonment by his father clearly had an enormous effect on him, but it was still shocking to learn well into the book that Trond has children that he has also abandoned--much later in life, but an abandonment nonetheless. He moved to the country without telling his daughters--when one of them tracks him down eight months later, she has had to call officials in communities within an 80-mile radius to find him.
Even the title makes two appearances in the story--on the last day they spend together, Jon wakes Trond by saying, "Let's go out stealing horses"; in fact, they merely steal rides on the neighbor's horses. But it turns out that the same phrase was a code among members of the resistance in the area.
The writing is lovely. I don't know whether Petterson is simply a wonderful translatable author (an interview I read said he had done a lot of rewriting during the translation process, which is quite interesting and something I'd like to know more about), Anne Born is a marvelous translator, or both, but the result is readable, evocative prose.
I'm still grappling with Trond's story--Petterson does have me thinking about to what extent we repeat our parents' lives and whether we can, as Trond says at the end of the book, "decide for ourselves when it will hurt." I'm eager to hear what others in Novel Conversations have to say about the book.
Maybe in those days I lacked a certain type of imagination, and possibly I still do, but what I saw happening on the other side of the river came upon me so unexpectedly that I sat there staring, with my mouth open, not cold, not hot, not even lukewarm, but with my head almost bursting with emptiness, and if anyone had caught sight of me just then, they may well have thought I had run away from a home for backward children.
. . . I closed my eyes and lifted my face to the sky, and there was nothing coming down that I could feel. Only cool air on my skin and the scent of resin and timber, and the scent of earth, and a bird whose name I did not know hopping around in a thicket rustling and crackling and sending out a steady stream of thin piping sounds from the dense foliage a few paces from my foot. It was a strange, lonely sound out there in the night, but I did not know whether it was the bird I thought was lonely or if it was me.