Cover Image: Stolen


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I usually don’t put a lot of faith in comp titles, but in this case calling Stolen “Louise Erdrich meets Jo Nesbø” is very accurate. The book follows Elsa, a Sámi girl and who witnesses the murder of her reindeer when at the start of the book. As the plot continues we see the struggle of the Sámi people as they battle racism and hate crimes and climate change and other factors that are threatening their way of life. While Elsa is the main character, we do get chapters from other POVs including of the man who is torturing and killing reindeer so major trigger warning for animal cruelty here as there are some graphic depictions.

I think what this book does well is immerses the reader into the Sámi way of life and the struggles they face due to the other people’s hatred, an indifferent police and government, climate change, and more. The writing is also very immersive and well suited to such a bleak story. That being said, the pacing of this was off for me. That might be because I came in expecting more of a mystery plot, but we know from the beginning who the culprit is, so the book is more of a family saga than a mystery. But even after I readjusted my expectations, there were places where the story dragged for me.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book and I do recommend it if you’re in the mood for a fairly bleak family saga centering a Sámi community.

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I'm thankful for the eARC copy of Stolen. While I was initially drawn to the novel on the basis of its setting, it continually kept my engagement because of its powerful voice. Before reading this piece, I didn't know much about the Sami people, though I knew much more about other native populations. The insights and parallels between this population and Indigenous Americans are striking. But while this novel is information, it is, at its heart, a thriller. The grim discovery that Elsa makes marks her in ways both tangible and intangible - and the way in which this memory recurs is a true representation of traumatic memory. This is one of those pieces that you simply cannot put down and while the dialogue could be difficult to follow at times, I was engrossed.

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A fascinating look at the cultural traditions of the Sami people in northern Sweden, as seen through the eyes of Elsa, a young girl whose family herds reindeer. At the beginning of the book Elsa is only 9 and traumatized by the brutal slaughter of her reindeer calf, but she is strong and determined, always wanting to stick up for herself when she perceives injustice—or indifference from law enforcement. Later we see Elsa as a young woman pushing back against long-standing atitudes and cultural traditions unfavorable to women. I initially assumed from the leisurely unforlding of the first few chapters that this would be the story of a young child seeeking justice, and the sudden jumps several years forward in time were unexpected. Elsa remains true to herself as she grows up, and we see the child's determination in the woman she becomes.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a digital advance review copy.

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This exposed me to a culture that I was unaware of. It is an unflinching take on the racism faed by the Sami reindeer herders. It is a unique story thought and I would recommend it to adventurous readers.

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Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius was wild! The cover is absolutely stunning. Heartbreaking and terrifying - I felt so lucky to get a copy for myself! I have shared on my goodreads, bookstagram, and booktok!

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I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


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Thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for providing a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my feedback.

"She hadn't lied. Not saying anything wasn't the same as lying."

I am giving this book 4.5 stars and would recommend it. The book begins with Elsa, a nine year-old Sami girl, who stumbles across a man who has just murdered one of her family's reindeer. The man threatens Elsa into not telling anyone who he was, which she complies with; that decision follows her and the Sami community in which she lives for the next nine years.

This is a beautiful book. Although the storyline of the murder drives most of the events, the book also does an excellent job of describing the lifestyle of the Sami people as well as the hardships - climate change, discrimination, and lack of institutional support - they face. The title "Stolen" comes from the fact that when a reindeer is killed, it is considered theft by the government/police and not a more serious crime, which tends to it being rarely investigated.

I appreciated how the book also explored the hardships Sami people face within their own community. Gender roles, sexual identity, and mental health within the community are also explored through the eyes of Elsa's immediate and extended family members. Anyone who seems to be challenging the norms of the community is seen as "different".

I knew nothing about the Sami people before reading this book. I was worried that I was not going to be able to relate to the characters and/or story at all. This was not the case. I learned a lot about their way of life and what isn't being done to ensure it's continued existence. The poor treatment of indigenous people is a low point in a lot of countries' histories, which broadens the potential reach this book could have

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In Shelf Awareness for Readers:

Inspired by true events, Ann-Helén Laestadius's Stolen, translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, is an engrossing coming-of-age story and a slow-burning thriller. It's also an extraordinary glimpse into the modern-day life of Sámi reindeer herders in Sweden struggling to balance tradition with the ever-changing context of modernity, xenophobia and climate change.

When Elsa, daughter of Sámi reindeer herders, finds her reindeer calf brutally murdered in the family pen, her life is forever changed. She realizes her love for the traditions of her people is more at risk than ever before, threatened by continued violence but also by increasingly warm winters that disrupt the reindeer migration patterns. Still, she cannot leave them behind: "Once you had gazed into a reindeer's eyes and understood, you realized you had no choice but to be right there." As Elsa and her family teeter between past traditions and modernization, the bleakness of their situation comes to a head in ways at once predictable and entirely surprising, pitting a strong young woman against systems much larger than herself in an attempt to honor the legacy she has inherited. "Being Sámi meant carrying your history with you, to stand before that heavy burden as a child and choose to bear it or not. But how could you choose not to bear your family's history and carry on your inheritance?"

With incredible cultural detail about the Sámi people and traditions of reindeer herding, Laestadius offers readers a glimpse into an oft-overlooked segment of the Swedish population. Stolen, bold and gripping from start to finish, is a tribute to a people, a place and a way of life. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

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Embedded deep in the Scandinavian world is an indigenous people whose culture heavily depends on reindeer herding. In “Stolen,” author Ann-Helén Laestadius shows us life through the eyes of the Sámi experience. It is a harsh existence made harder by the bigotry permeating their everyday life. The book explores many other of their issues: complications brought about by climate change, the culture’s strong male chauvinism, suicide and its lasting impact, mental health struggles and the stigma associated with counseling.

The plotline initially focuses on Elsa, a nine-year-old girl who stumbles upon a man who has just brutally murdered her reindeer, Nastegallu. Throughout the course of the book we live the frustration of Elsa and her people as they are virtually ignored in their attempts to have the authorities stop the persistent attacks on their herds. We see Elsa challenging her fears as she grows from that frightened child to a woman who refuses to accept the injustices she sees.

The bulk of the book develops detailed portrayals of complex characters and slowly builds up to an inevitable confrontation. The final chapters then surge with some exciting page turning encounters. Overall, a very good novel you may want to read before its upcoming treatment by Netflix.

Please be warned: much of this is based on real-life events and there are some very explicit animal cruelty passages which are hard to take. This brutality is at the heart of the matter, however, and is in no way gratuitous. It would be difficult to gloss over these despicable acts.

Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. #Stolen #NetGalley

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Named Sweden’s Book of the Year, Stolen by Ann-Helén Laestadius paints a vivid picture of contemporary Sámi culture, centering on a young girl growing into womanhood in a multigenerational family, including Sámi grandparents, Sámi father, non-Sámi mother who has adopted Sámi ways, and older brother Mattias.
The story opens in early 2008 as nine-year old Elsa decides to ski alone to the reindeer corral where she discovers her calf Nástegallu dead outside the corral. A man Elsa recognizes holds a bloody knife. He puts one finger to his lips and then draws it across his throat, conveying a clear message. As he removes his gloves from his pocket before escaping on his snow mobile, he doesn’t notice the ear falling from his pocket.

Elsa picks up and preserves Nástegallu’s ear, keeping it a secret from her family. When her father takes her to the police station to testify to her discovery of the dead reindeer, she does not mention the man she has seen or the ear that bears her mark and proves her ownership. Despite ongoing incidents of reindeer slaughter, the police repeatedly close each case, resulting in Elsa’s increasing guilt about remaining silent even when other members of the Sámi community believe they know the identity of the killer but can do nothing without proof.

Laestadius divides the novel into three parts: Part I: Winter 2008, Part II: Autumn-Winter 2018, and Part III: Spring-Summer 2019. As Elsa grows up, she must decide what actions to take to defend the herd and traditional Sámi ways.

The novel’s focus on conflicting cultures, its interesting characters, its suspenseful plot, and the inclusion of a reading group guide all make this an excellent book club choice.

Interestingly, the author shares a surname with Vicar Lars Levi Laestadius (1800-1861), the man for whom the conservative Laestadian sect was named and whom Elsa’s grandmother reveres in the book. Like the man responsible for converting many Sámi, the author is part Sámi. Whether they are related, I don’t know.

Thanks to NetGalley and Scribner/Simon & Schuster for an advance reader copy.

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** spoiler alert ** This story was told by Ann-Helén Laestadius and was first put into perspective by having Elsa's (9 years old) baby reindeer Nástrgallu being killed right in front of her and the killer threatening her life. She goes through the whole story afraid of this one man. The story goes on to talk about one of the boys killing himself by suicide. It takes a lot out of the Sami community. And especially by her brother. As the story unfolds we are met with the killer turning over his 4-wheeler and Elsa does nothing and leaves then her brother turns over the 4-Wheeler and then he uses his wader boots to get his dog and drowns. Both the girl Elsa and her brother were called in by the police. You have to read the story to find out what happens. It will make you sick as to what happens.

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Wooowwwwww. I think stolen is going to be one of my fav books this year.

This saga is so informative. I learned so much about Sámi life and reindeer herding, plus the sociopolitical struggles with villages who don’t respect that reindeer are not just a source of meat, but are a way of life.

I loved Elsa as a strong female lead and how she challenges gender norms but also maintains traditions. The author does a great job of exploring so many issues, like the nomad schools, challenges of police departments in very dispersed areas, and how, killing reindeer is categorized as theft, not murder, even tho there are incidents of what Sámi characters see as “hate crimes.”

The beginning is hard to read, and i was so shocked by the suicide. It also took me a while to get used to some explicit descriptions of reindeer torture but I think necessary.
In the end, an important and informative read with some kick ass female characters. I enjoyed reading this one as an e book too bc I could look up a lot of the words I didn’t know.

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I stopped reading about a third of the way through because I could not handle the detailed descriptions of animal cruelty [chapter 34 did me in], but I really really love Elsa, her Sami family, and their reindeer <3
I can say confidently that what I did read was super well done, very descriptive, and we got quite a few narration perspectives, which I wasn't expecting! It was great because no matter if we were reading from the point of 9 year old Elsa or her teenage brother or their grown woman friend, or a psycho older man [whom I hope gets his in the end...], the narration is super genuine and feels very distinct to each character. I also loved learning more about Sami culture! I definitely want to read more at some point but phew, I can't handle the reindeer brutality :( which is very much the point.
4.5 stars from what I did read though!

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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley got the opportunity to read this in advance.

This will likely be a top read of 2023 even though I read it in January. This has almost every element that I love in a novel. There are thriller aspects with excellent tension. There is an authentic window into the Sami culture and reindeer collectives and the struggle that the protagonist has with some aspects of her culture (that only men can be the head of a reindeer collective, for example).
There is the unflinching look at racism against the Sami people - individually and institutionally and the very real effects this has on the characters.
There is superb writing and translation. The perspective and experiences of the main character when she was 9 years old takes up almost the first half of the book, and getting a child's perspective right while still impressing important information into the reader's mind, and making the child believable, shows a lot of talent in my opinion.
I can see why this was a bestseller in Sweden.

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Told from the perspective of a young girl, Elsa, who sees a horrific crime, this book is part thriller and part emotional family drama.

Stolen follows an indigenous family living in the Arctic Circle who herd reindeer for a living. Reindeer are scared and when someone starts killing them and the police do nothing about it, Elsa's family either has to take matters into their own hands or try to move on from it.

This book follows Elsa as she grows up in this community with people who resent her family because of who they are and what they do, and once she's old enough, she decides its time to put an end to all of the threats and violence that her family has had to endure through the years.

Stolen is a heartbreaking tale based on true events that will keep you on edge, make you angry, and teach you things about the individuals who live in the Arctic Circle and the natural world there that you never dreamed of.

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A coming of age story and a tragedy all in one. Animal lovers should know up front that this is very tough to read in spots (there's one particularly awful scene). Elsa sees the man who killed and mutilated her reindeer and his cruelty follows her, and her family, throughout their lives. She's eight when it happens and she can't let go, especially when more dead reindeer are found and the police don't even come out to take the reports. This novel follows Elsa as she grows as well as her Sami community, and. regrettably, Robert, who follows in the footsteps of his father by slaughtering the reindeer. Elsa is determined to one day hold him accountable but he keeps escaping - and turns on her. Elsa's beloved cousins, her parents, her brother, her grandmother, her friends, all figure in this as do the reindeer most of all. Laestadius will make you see their beauty, as well as the snow. I liked the atmospherics (the clothing, the food, the ice) as well as Elsa, who is a dynamic character and I learned a great deal. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC. Great read.

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The compelling story of Elsa, a reindeer herder of Sami descent, who witnesses the murder of her reindeer at 9 years old. The attacks on the reindeer herds continue by the same man who murdered Elsa's reindeer and despite having evidence, the police refuse to investigate it or see it as an urgent issue and consider it no more than theft. The tensions run high between the Sami reindeer herders and other villagers and as she gets olders, Elsa tries to speak up and get the word out about the attacks to stop the murders from happening. The story is partly about the hatred and xenophobia within the community, but also about the side effects of it, such as family dynamics and mental health. A good book for readers who like detailed and descriptive settings or coming of age stories.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Selling Pitch:
Do you want a social commentary novel about racism towards the Sami people and police corruption? Do you like a dense, atmospheric book without humor or zip? Can you handle graphic scenes of animal abuse?

Hello. The cover. Love. Also, it’s gonna be on Netflix, so you know I had to get it early.

Thick of it:
Did grandma get raped in the classroom? (Unclear, but google says there was some real fucked up stuff going on in schools in the 1900s courtesy of the church. Quelle surprise.)

Is he gay or…how dark is this book going? (Left up to the reader, and I think that’s a weakness.)

What an awful man. I really don’t need all these descriptions of animal abuse.

Clue is my favorite board game too.

I just cannot fathom what is wrong with the world that there are so many hateful, racist people out there.

Don’t hurt dogs. You’re just as bad then.

Ugh yes, good job, book. Being a homemaker and wanting to be a mom doesn’t make you weak or any less important. Not enough people have this mindset.

Couldn’t they get a location from his phone?

This book is so disappointing to me, but social commentary novels like this almost always disappoint me. I just don’t get them. Oh, people are racist and shitty. Police officers are corrupt. Anyone is capable of murder. Like we done been knew. I just don’t get the point to them. What am I supposed to take away? That people are shitty? I didn’t need the book to know that. The book captures a different culture and way of life well. It has multidimensional characters and commentary on what pushes good people to do bad things. It’s just not what I want in a book. I want books that make me feel enough to ugly cry, or to be bouncy, and fun, and a romp. This is neither. It’s well written, but there’s nothing to keep you turning pages and there’s no zippy dialogue. It’s a bit of a slog, and there are some really gnarly depictions of animal abuse.

Still interested in seeing the Netflix show or movie.

Who should read this:
Social commentary lovers

Do I want to reread this:

Similar books:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens-atmospheric, class and social justice commentary with murder
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-social commentary on racism
Beartown by Fredrik Backman-social and rape culture commentary in Sweden

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Elsa, a 9 year old girl, witnesses a killing - a reindeer killing. But in her Sámi village this is a big deal for the reindeer herders like her family. It is reported to the police but nothing comes of it. Subsequent killings occur with the same result.

This is a special glimpse into life on the edge of the arctic circle, what it’s like to be caught between two worlds and life in a reindeer collective.

It approaches sensitive topics gently but powerfully too.

What it’s like to integrate into Swedish society as a Sámi (Lapp)
Suicide within the community and how it affects everyone
Mental Health of Indigenous people
Coming of age in an unknown world

Translated from Swedish. I loved learning more about the Sámi, their life and how life is lived in parts of Sweden.

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Set among the Sami reindeer herders of Sweden, a young girl fears for her life after witnessing the murder of one of their reindeer. A unflinching look at the discrimination faced by the Sami.

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