cover image Swede Hollow

Swede Hollow

Ola Larsmo, trans. from the Swedish by Tiina Nunnally. Univ. of Minnesota, $26.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-5179-0451-7

Swedish critic and columnist Larsmo’s poignant first novel to be translated into English follows the tribulations of an immigrant-heavy township outside of St. Paul, Minn., during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gustaf and Anna Klar leave Sweden for the United States with their three children in search of a fresh start after Gustaf stabs a man during a fight. The family perseveres through the cramped and uncomfortable journey by ship to Ellis Island, struggles to find employment in New York, and moves to Swede Hollow, Minn., eventually settling into their new home living alongside other Swedish immigrants, as well as immigrants from Ireland and Italy. The men seek jobs with the railroads, while the women find work cleaning, sewing, and doing laundry. The narrative jumps between Gustaf and Anna’s industrious working lives (which eventually leads to the establishment of their own shoe-making shop) and the travails of their children—Ellen, Elisabet, and Carl. Ellen, the eldest, has the most success adjusting, as she works her way up from cleaning to working as a seamstress and eventually becoming a skilled typist. As the family scrambles to make ends meet, they face poor living conditions, disease, and discrimination. But they find love and friendship as well in the tight-knit, hardscrabble community. Larsmo’s well-researched, dynamic story illuminates the Swedish immigrant experience and will transport readers into a little-known historical community. [em](Oct.) [/em]