Swede Hollow

A Novel

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Ola Larsmo
Contributor: Tiina Nunnally

BOOK PREVIEW—We’ve provided a sample of the full-text here for review purposes.

When Gustaf and Anna Klar and their three children leave Sweden for New York in 1897, they take with them a terrible secret and a longing for a new life. But their dream of starting over is nearly crushed at the outset: a fire devastates Ellis Island just as they arrive, and then the relentlessly harsh conditions and lack of work in the city make it impossible for Gustaf to support his family. An unexpected gift allows the Klars to make one more desperate move, this time to the Midwest and a place called Swede Hollow.

Their new home is a cluster of rough-hewn shacks in a deep, wooded ravine on the edge of St. Paul, Minnesota. The Irish, Italian, and Swedish immigrants who live here are a hardscrabble lot usually absent from the familiar stories of Swedish American history. The men hire on as poorly paid day laborers for the Great Northern or Northern Pacific railroads or work at the nearby brewery, and the women clean houses, work at laundries, or sew clothing in stifling factories. Outsiders malign Swede Hollow as unsanitary and rife with disease, but the Klar family and their neighbors persevere in this neglected corner of the city—and consider it home.Extensively researched and beautifully written, Ola Larsmo’s award-winning novel vividly portrays a family and a community determined to survive. There are hardships, indignities, accidents, and harrowing encounters, but also acts of loyalty and kindness and moments of joy. This haunting story of a real place echoes the larger challenges of immigration in the twentieth century and today.


  • rights
    Frontispiece: Swede Hollow, circa 1910. Photograph by Albert Charles Munson. Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Swedish Arts Council for the translation of this book.

    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the generous assistance provided for the publication of this book by the Hognander Family Foundation.

    Swede Hollow was first published in Swedish by Albert Bonniers Förlag, Sweden. English translation published by arrangement with Nordin Agency AB, Sweden.

    Lyrics from "This Land Is Your Land" words and music by Woody Guthrie. WGP/TRO copyright 1956, 1958, 1970, 1972 (copyrights renewed) Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. and Ludlow Music, Inc., New York, New York. Administered by Ludlow Music, Inc. International copyright secured. Made in U.S.A. All rights reserved, including public performance for profit. Reprinted by permission.

    Copyright 2016 by Ola Larsmo

    Translation copyright 2019 by Tiina Nunnally
  • publisher
    University of Minnesota Press
  • publisher place
    Minneapolis, MN
  • restrictions
    All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
  • rights holder
    Copyright 2016 by Ola Larsmo

    Translation copyright 2019 by Tiina Nunnally