Read and discuss Scandinavian literature in translation as part of our Nordic Book Club, now online! Each month we select a novel from some of the best Nordic literary voices. On April 12, we’ll be discussing To Cook a Bear by Swedish author Mikael Niemi, a fantastic tale set in the far north of Sweden in 1852 that has been an international bestseller and a Sunday Times UK Best Book of the Year.
Jussi, a runaway Sami boy, meets and becomes the faithful son and disciple of famous pastor Laestadius, as the two set out on botanical treks filled with philosophical discussions where Jussi learns all about plants and nature; and also how to read and write and about spirituality. But their quiet days are interrupted when a maid goes missing in the forest and is found dead, causing locals to suspect a predatory bear is at large.
But Laestadius sees other traces that point to a far worse killer on the loose; and as he and Jussi work to track down the murderer after another maid is severely injured, they are unaware of evil closing in on them — for it is revivalist times, and as Laestadius’s powerful Sunday sermons grant salvation to farmers and workers, they also gain him enemies among local rulers losing profits from alcohol.
A completely absorbing and unforgettable novel, To Cook a Bear both entertains and burrows deep into the great philosophical questions of life.
“[A] wonderfully idiosyncratic novel from Sweden…not only a riveting, psychologically astute mystery but also a work of history, natural history, and religion”—Booklist