S. & S. Audio. Jan. 2023. tr. from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles. 13:13 hrs. ISBN 9781797155630. $23.99. F
In her English-language debut novel, soon to be a Netflix film, award-winning Swedish journalist and author Laestadius, whose mother comes from a traditional reindeer-herding family, vividly depicts the human and environmental threats to the Sámi way of life. Nine-year-old Elsa is checking on her family’s herd when she sees a man brutally kill her favorite reindeer. When he sees that she’s spotted him, he threatens her, so she keeps silent when she accompanies her father to the police station. Whether she spoke up or not probably wouldn’t matter, however, because year after year, the police stand by while Elsa’s family, and others in their community, lose reindeer after reindeer to those trying to make the Sámi feel unwelcome on their own land. While some attacks are motivated by those who desire Sámi land for mining, most are simply racist. Jade Wheeler’s emotionally attuned performance captures the fear, despair, and rage of Elsa, her family, and all of Laestadius’s well-drawn secondary characters—including the reindeer killers themselves.
VERDICT With Wheeler’s musical Sámi language pronunciations and Laestadius’s atmospheric prose, listeners are transported to this fragile Arctic landscape. Those who like social justice stories will cherish this unforgettable coming-of-age story and performance.
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