Out Stealing Horses Summary & Study Guide

Anne Born and Per Petterson
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Out Stealing Horses Summary & Study Guide Description

Out Stealing Horses Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson (translated by Anne Born), begins with Trond Sander, a 67-year-old man living in a small secluded cabin on the Swedish border. Though he has lived most of his life in the city, he began life in a small place not unlike the one he is now in.

The reader learns some background on Trond. He has been married a couple of times; he is once divorced, and then his second wife, died, leaving him a widower. The reader is not told why he has chosen to be solitary, but the reader does learn that he has a lot of family that he has left back in the city, with whom he has broken off all contact. Trond would have been well on his way to his life of quiet and solitude except that one evening, a person he thought he would never see again shows up in the small town there. His name is Lars Haug. Seeing Lars sparks off a chain reaction of memories, which cascade and form the bulk of the story. Trond speaks of the time when Lars accidentally shot his twin brother, Odd, in the face, during the summer of 1948. As he thinks about that sobering event, he becomes lost in his memories of that summer.

Trond's memories drift back to the time prior to the summer of 1948. World War II was still ongoing. Trond, his sister and his mother were living in Oslo, but their father lived in a small cabin just on the Swedish border. Though he and his family didn't know it at first, he would later learn that his father was a part of the resistance movement, and often moved documents, supplies, or people across the border. Their code word for making these dangerous missions was called 'Stealing Horses'. Trond and his family never knew what it was that he did, and they didn't see much of him during the war years. When he returned to them on the conclusion of the war, it was as if a stranger had returned.

In order to reconnect with Trond, his father took him to the very same cabin where he operated the resistance from. He had purchased the cabin and the land and intended to cut down the trees to sell for lumber. Trond and his father grew very close and Trond realized, at the age of 15, that his father was as close to a hero as he'd ever met. Trond was terribly proud of him.

There were some other boys that lived on the neighboring farm, Jon, Lars, and Odd, who routinely came over to hang out with Trond. Jon, who was older than Trond, took a liking to him. He taught Trond about the woods in the area, and how to live off of the land. Jon was also reckless and enticed Trond to take risks. One of those risks, over the course of the summer, was to steal horses. This entailed the boys sneaking up on horses, jumping on them, and riding them wherever they would take them. Almost the equivalent of going for a joy ride in a car. Jon also had a dark side, as Trond learned one afternoon while they were exploring the woods. Jon climbed a tree and found a bird's nest with some perfect looking eggs in it. They both remarked about how beautiful they were, then Jon smashed them all, laughing. Trond was horrified.

One day, when Trond was over at Jon's house, Jon left his rifle leaning in the corner of the room. Lars, who was ten, didn't think that it is loaded, and started playing with it. In the process, he killed his twin brother, Odd. The family was devastated, and Jon, feeling that it was his fault, couldn't live with the guilt and shortly left never to return. This hurt Trond terribly, as Jon was his best friend.

Jon's father died shortly after that from injuries he obtained from chopping trees down. It is while Trond's father and Jon were at the hospital, that Trond met Franz, who was a friend of his father's. He told Trond about his father's exploits during the war. Once again, Trond was extremely proud to be the son of such a daring war hero.

This image of his father was fractured when shortly after Jon's father's death, Trond caught his own father kissing Jon's mother and was ashamed of him. Trond is also secretly upset because he, too, had found himself attracted to her. He decided to ask Franz about why his father would do such a thing as to betray his mother. Franz told him that most likely it was because Jon's Mother and Trond's father served together during the war, moving documents across the border. This type of thing draws people together, he explained to Trond.

Trond realized that the tension he'd always felt between Jon and his own father must have been because Jon knew about the affair. This also explained why Jon's father always seemed distant to all of them. For the first time in his life, Trond began to view his father as a human being - a flawed human being - instead of viewing him from the perspective of a young boy's hero worship.

As the summer came to a close, Trond's father told him that he needed to pack his things to head home. Trond asked him why he wasn't packing, and his father told him that he would come later. Trond arrived home and each day afterward rode his bike to the train station to see if his father would get off soon.

The story jumps back to the present day where Lars and Trond help each other cut fire wood and haul it in. Though they don't say a lot, what they do say indicates that both men, as younger men, had chosen to distance themselves from the adulterous parent. Now, both approaching 70 years old, all they want is to be left alone.

Ellen, Trond's daughter, comes looking for him. She finally tracks him down and is in the cabin waiting for him when he returns from chopping wood one afternoon. Ellen can tell that he is in good health and is there for some peace and solace after his second wife's death. He agrees to regularly check in with her just to let her know that he is okay. Then, she leaves.

The storyline jumps back to Trond's arrival back in Oslo after his summer with his father. Several months had passed, and Trond's father had not arrived. That morning, Trond's mother received a letter from Trond's father telling her that he was not coming back. He wrote that the money he and Trond made selling the lumber from the summer had been left for them in a Swedish bank. The entire summer had been a planned betrayal by Trond's father. They traveled to the bank to draw the money out, and Trond's mother was disappointed with the amount that had been left to them. Still, there was enough there, she thought, to purchase Trond his first suit. She thought that he would now need a good suit. Trond thinks, as he recalls walking down that street with his mother, that even then he knew that each person decides when and where they will be hurt, and how they will deal with it.

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