Nine-year-old Elsa—daughter of Sâami reindeer herders—sees a man brutally kill her beloved reindeer calf and threaten her into silence. Local police tell her that there is nothing they can do about these 'stolen' animals. But reindeer are not just the Sâami's livelihood; they also hold spiritual significance. Ten years later, hatred and threats against the Sâami keep escalating, and more reindeer are tortured and killed in Elsa's community. Finally, she's had enough and decides to push back.
Of Sámi descent herself, award-winning journalist Laestadius offers a rare, multigenerational look at the diverse and deep-rooted cultural heritage of this traditional arctic community. Akin to gritty stories of Old West cattle rustlers evading the law and society, Laestadius’ unvarnished saga demonstrates the universality of oppression and revenge and conflicts over land and race.
Though the pace can be slack, the sense of place and character development make for an affecting portrait of the Sámi’s disenfranchisement. It’s a solid story of a family torn apart by cultural tensions.
Laestadius, who is Sámi and of Tornedalian descent, indicates in her acknowledgements that the novel is based upon actual occurrences in Sápmi territory. Willson-Broyles’ translation from Swedish is matter-of-fact and incorporates many phrases and words from the Sámi language. A revelatory account of not-well-known assaults on the rights of an Indigenous group.