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It is winter, north of the Arctic Circle. A few hours of pale light is all the sun has to offer before the landscape is once more wrapped in compact darkness. This is Sápmi, land of the Sami, Scandinavia’s indigenous people.

Elsa is nine years old and the daughter of Sami reindeer herders. One morning when she goes skiing alone, she witnesses a man brutally killing her reindeer calf, Nástegallu. Elsa recognizes him, he is a Swedish man from the neighboring village and she knows that he has been harassing her family for years. The man has never been caught in the act. Until now.

But Elsa is threatened into silence and refuses to tell her family and the police about what she saw. Instead, she carries her secret as a dark weight on her heart. Reindeer are the Sami’s livelihood, but the animals also serve an important spiritual role; attacking their reindeer is an attack on the culture itself. Even though she’s just a child, Elsa sees how persistent violence from neighbors and systematic indifference from authorities tear open deep wounds and causes those close to her to lose hope, and even their will to live.

Ten years pass, and Elsa is now trying to claim a role for herself in her community, where male elders expect young women to know their place. Meanwhile, the hatred and threats against the Sami keep escalating. When Elsa finds herself the target of the man who killed her reindeer calf all those years ago, something inside of her finally breaks. The guilt, fear, and anger she’s been carrying since childhood come crashing over her like an avalanche, leading Elsa to a final catastrophic confrontation.

In Stolen, award-winning writer Ann-Helén Laestadius portrays a young woman’s struggle to defend her indigenous heritage in a world where xenophobia is on the rise, climate change is threatening reindeer herding, and young people choose suicide in the face of collective desperation. But the novel also lays bare the tensions that arise when modern ideas come up against a traditional culture with deeply rooted patriarchal structures.

In September 2021, Laestadius won the Book of the Year Award for Stolen.

Extra Materials

Final Cover Stolen Canada Canada, Simon & Schuster
Odcizeni_obalka_navrh1 Czech Republic, Albatros / Kniha Zlin
BYTTE_forside - DK Denmark, Alpha
Skärmavbild 2021-12-20 kl. 13.41.17 Finland, Schildts & Söderströms
010553788 France, Robert Laffont
f_kzy10im71 Germany, Hoffmann & Campe
Final_Icelandic cover Iceland, Forlagið
Cargo cover Stolen Netherlands, De Bezige Bij / Cargo
FINAL_Ann-Helén Laestadius - Stjålet Norway, Aschehoug
Sami cover Sami, Davvi Girji
Prebal.indd Slovakia, Premedia Group
Skärmavbild 2022-11-11 kl. 09.54.45 UK, Bloomsbury
Stolen LR US, Scribner
Skärmavbild 2023-02-09 kl. 14.38.19 Croatia, Oceanmore


“Laestadius’s nuanced English-language debut… [is] a solid story of a family torn apart by cultural tensions… the sense of place and character development make for an affecting portrait of the Sámi’s disenfranchisement.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

“A revelatory account of not-well-known assaults on the rights of an Indigenous group… The legacies of long-held social prejudices against the Indigenous group—racism, economic insecurity, and the traumas borne by the community’s elders who had been removed from the group in childhood and sent to “nomad schools”—continue to haunt Sámi life with devastating effects… Looming over the tale… is the specter of climate change and its impacts on the traditional Sámi herding methods.”
Kirkus Reviews (US)

Stolen is a powerful novel that explores an Indigenous community threatened by climate change, racism, and violence. […] Laestadius has gone beyond crafting a thriller built around a coming of age story. She has neatly side-stepped cliches about Indigenous communities to reveal a loving portrait of a community fighting to survive, and the complexity of a multigenerational struggle seen through the eyes of a young Sámi woman. […] Laestadius’ intricate depictions of moments in Indigenous life like these shine. […] What Stolen may do best is make clear how hollow words ring when world leaders talk about protecting Indigenous land and people. […] Stolen is both a lesson and a warning.”
Grist (US)

“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. Teens drawn to tales of social justice crusaders and indigenous communities will appreciate Elsa’s journey from intimidated child to avenging adult.”
Booklist (US)

“Through adept characterization, the novel highlights the problems and issues the Sámi face – racism, loss of culture, alcoholism, suicide, governmental mistakes and neglect, and the devastating effects of climate change. […] Award-winning author/journalist Laestadius, who is herself of Sámi descent, succeeds in capturing Sámi life.”
Library Journal (US)

Stolen has an unusual drive and it is impressive how the pace is maintained for more than 400 pages in this sharp and socially critical novel with an intensity that makes it powerful and strong. Ann-Helén Laestadius manages to keep the sense of the Sami language and their worldview alive and puts it in contact and in conflict with the times in which we live. Don’t miss out on her portrayal of the misery and demise of the emotionally disturbed neighbour, the man who hates the Sami. In fact, whatever you do, don’t miss out on this novel at all.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

“In Stolen, Laestadius writes with burning intensity about a community around the Arctic Circle that is rarely portrayed. About xenophobia, and conflicts between the Sami and other villagers that are inherited through generations. About reindeer who are killed and mutilated by vengeful poachers, about the passive police force and a destructive silence. With both vulnerability and immense power, Ann-Helén’ joiks a searing social critique that echoes across borders and latitudes. […] Laestadius’ own experiences and her background as a young adult writer is evident through her gripping portrayal of Elsa’s coming of age from a girl to a young woman. The ruthless polar night is intertwined with light and warm moments, creating an authentic and empathic portrait. […] Her commitment shines through and constantly urges the reader to continue reading. It may be foolhardy to name this year’s most powerful book as early as February. But that Stolen is one of the most important Swedish books of the year is indisputable.”
Demokraatti (FI)

Stolen is not only a fierce cry for justice, but also an empathic and beautiful story about the love of the reindeer and nature. […] The anguish and the grief is portrayed in a heartbreaking way. You are constantly apprehensive about what’s to come. Expecting the worst, and then the worst happens. What would it feel like to live like this? Some are unable to cope. […] If the best reading experiences are when you both learn something about yourself or the world – and you get a stylistically inspiring experience too – then Ann-Helén Laestadius’s novel exceeds by far.”
Norra Skåne (SE)

“One of the most talked about books this spring. […] I am impressed how as a reader I’m skilfully and effortlessly initiated into the everyday life of reindeer herders. The book is dramatic and thrilling, yet at the same time filled with grief and an underlying fury. […] It is such an important story that needs to be read no matter your gender, age, or background. Stolen is a moving, multifaceted, and important contemporary novel that highlights many serious themes and portrays a society and a situation that needs to be discussed many times over. A well-written story that leaves a lasting impression.”
P4 Västernorrland (SE)

“In a careful and at times poetic prose [Laestadius] portrays milieus, conflicts, and magic from an area that has long been underrepresented in literary fiction in Sweden. […] Laestadius portrays many difficulties and complex matters; here is something that must be told, and explained. And she truly has a beautiful language, meticulous like traditional Sami handicraft, duodji.”
Expressen (SE)

“Laestadius elegantly balances around the Sami elements, highlighting the cultural characteristics of the community without making it sound exotic. To provide insight into the culture through the eyes of a child is quite simply brilliant. While nine-year-old Elsa gradually understands what the grownups around her carry and keep silent about, a reader with little insight in Sami matters learn a lot about the situation of the Sami without feeling lectured. […] The reader becomes witness to a process of change, how difficult it is to break a vicious circle in society. Ann-Helén Laestadius’s writing flows seamlessly, with a piercing psychological and keen eye for societal issues. […] I am especially happy about the elegant ending, that beautifully ties the circle together and brings hope of a brighter future, while some threads are left unresolved so the reader can keep guessing what will happen to Elsa, Mattias, Minna, and the rest.”
Hufvudstadsbladet (FI)

Stolen is in part based on real life events and it begins in 2008 when 9-year-old Elsa bears witness to a man named Robert Isaksson killing one of her reindeer. […] The animosity between Elsa’s family and the non-Sami villagers is intimately and vividly portrayed. Above all, the novel gives beautiful insights into the life of the Sami and their struggle for justice. […] An accessible and at the same time deep, beautiful, and suspenseful tale of a part of the world many of us know very little about. It deserves a large audience.”

“The start of the novel is just as dramatically charged as that of Kerstin Ekman’s Blackwater. […] The first third of the book is exemplary in the portrayal of Elsa as a child, whose language and inner world Laestadius captures impeccably. There, she builds the foundation the entire novel rests upon: the persecution and harassment of the Sami, and how it has continued through generations. […] It becomes a novel about prejudice and hatred, and  Robert’s acts illustrate an extreme form of racism. […] The best trick of fiction is how it can make us feel part of something, and Laestadius does just that. […] Incredibly thrilling.”
Jönköpings-Posten (SE)

“To kill the reindeer of a nine-year-old girl is calculated cruelty. And to then threaten her life as she witnesses the crime creates a vulnerability that is difficult to grasp. But thanks to Ann-Helén Laestadius’s sparse, steady prose and tight-knit storytelling it becomes possible. You can feel Elsa’s fear in your gut, and understand why she keeps the secret of who she saw to herself into adulthood. […] Most of all, this is a novel about a young woman, Elsa, growing up. She tenaciously fights the poachers, she demands acceptance among the reindeer herders (and eases the pressure on her brother’s shoulders), she becomes a symbol for the future of her village, and she is the protagonist of a dramatic culmination of almost cinematic proportions. Stolen is both a thrilling page-turner and a story to remember for a long time to come.”
Sundsvalls Tidning (SE)

“Ann-Helén Laestadius beautifully portrays the everyday life of Sami reindeer herders. […] The reader gets to experience the freedom of nature – at times with a silence so deafening it could almost rupture eardrums. […] Stolen offers empathy, warmth, and poignant drama. It is written with a steady hand.”
Norrländska Socialdemokraten (SE)

“The heart of the story exists in the feeling of powerless fury Elsa’s father holds towards the police’s disinterested lack of investigation into the poaching of his reindeer. It is there in the bullying of the Sami school children and of the Sami workers in the nearby mine. It is reflected in the large number of young Sami who commit suicide in the area. Ann-Helén Laestadius’s writing is restrained, and at times almost journalistic, yet it has an intensity that vibrates with grief and wrath. Stolen is an important novel that provides insight into modern Sami life. […] This is the first step in a new direction for an author with a crucial message: I will be sure to follow her going forward.”
Svenska Dagbladet (SE)

“The expectations on Ann-Helén Laestadius adult debut have been huge, and how she delivers! Stolen is a powerful, tragic, accusatory, and enlightening tale about the life of the Sami. […] As a reader it is a pure privilege to experience the rich and complex history of our indigenous people. The novel vibrates with grief, indignation, despair, and love. Laestadius is also a master at portraying everyday life; you can really smell the diesel fumes from the snowmobile mixing with newly-fallen snow, damp lovikka mittens and the sharp odour of the remains of a slaughtered reindeer. […] I could go on and on about all the thoughts and emotions this book awakens in me, but I will settle for these two words: read it!”
Alingsås Tidning (SE)

“Laestadius is a skilled storyteller and through her powerful and meticulous style she gives life to the text that makes it feel cinematic. Laestadius portrays the Sami community in a way that has never been done before; she’s to the point and critical when she highlights gender issues in reindeer herding and shows how structural racial discrimination works and is alive in Sweden to this day. […] Ann-Helén Laestadius is an important writer and this is something the nomination committee of the Nordic Council Literature Prize ought to realize now.”
Nuorat (Sápmi)

“The lives of reindeer herders and the vulnerability of the Sami are portrayed breathtakingly, beautifully, and movingly in Ann-Helén Laestadius’ outstanding novel Stolen. The novel is packed with love, intensity, and pain. The descriptions of snow crunching underneath skis, the creaking sound of ski poles, and how frost gets stuck in nose hair all takes me back to the winters of my childhood.”
M Magasin (SE)

“Ann-Helén Laestadius vividly portrays the situation of the Sami in an authentic way. She shows the everyday lives of the Sami: manners and customs, celebrations and everyday grind, and not least the prejudice of both Sami and other Swedes. She makes the story even richer by using North Sami words and expressions. […] A novel well worth reading that is incredibly suspenseful, almost like a suspense novel.”
Karlstads-Tidningen (SE)

“Laestadius has the skill to let the reader share the anger that Elsa feels. […] An important story about our time and Sweden today.”
Nerikes Allehanda (SE)

Stolen provides insight into the hardships of reindeer herders in our day and age. Laestadius gives us an emotional journey through the coming of age of a young reindeer herder, formed by reindeer theft, animal cruelty, threats and hate crimes. […] Stolen is a contemporary portrayal of society. A portrayal of a parallel society that has been formed by both old and new colonialism. This novel is a must read for anyone who is unaware of the xenophobia that exists against the Sami.”
Offensiv (SE)

“[Ann-Helén Laestadius] skillfully makes the reader feel the wrath that Elsa feels. This is a classic underdog story that effectively exposes injustices.”
Söderhamnskuriren (SE)

“Ann-Helén Laestadius takes the reader to a part of Sápmi where the antagonism between the Sami and the villagers escalates. Reindeer are killed and society looks away from the harassment. A seething fury propels the story forward and provides insight into a world that has been kept in the shadows for far too long but that has gotten more attention in recent years. Ann-Helén Laestadius is a crucial witness.”
Gefle Dagblad (SE)

“Those who know a thing or two about the special relationship between reindeer herders and the reindeer, and the reindeer’s status in Sami tradition and culture realizes that the mutilation of a reindeer is also a mutilation lot the Sami. It sends a message. A sort of declaration of war. […] This is a searing portrayal of an area where the tensions between the Sami and other villagers have poisoned coexistence through generations. And they still do. This, I gather, is an utterly contemporary novel. […] Laestadius characters stand in the middle of the conflict, some adapt, some don’t, some want nothing more than to pass on the Sami heritage, while some don’t. […] Stolen is a rich novel.”
Västerbottens-Kuriren (SE)

“Affectionate about life as a reindeer herder. […] The novel is almost poetic in its hints of belief in the supernatural. Here, the author balances on the edge of the mythical, and lands on the credible side. It’s about standing up for what you believe in. Not least connected to burning topics like climate, economy, and human rights. This novel should be read by anyone who enjoys a great literary story that sheds light on an important subject.”
Adresseavisen, 6/6 stars (NO)

“You may think that a book about the poaching of reindeer and a conflict between reindeer herders and others isn’t for you. […] But you’ll be mistaken. Stolen is first and foremost a thrilling and well-written read, and as a bonus you’ll learn something too. […] The ending is moving and excellent.”
Stavanger Aftenblad (NO)

“Ann-Helén Laestadius sparks both anger and unease when she writes about the murder of Sami reindeer. […] With great integrity, Stolen portrays a long-standing and deeply rooted conflict between the Sami and other villagers in the northern parts of Sweden. […] Stolen is, without a doubt, a thrilling read.”
Vårt Land (NO)

“The portrait of young Elsa is something the reader will remember for a long time.”
Verdens Gang (NO)

Stolen is a brilliantly thrilling, glowing story, in which this sharp-eyed writer brings a whole new world to the reader.”
Helsingin Sanomat (FI)

Stolen is nature writing and crime fiction and social criticism, but first and foremost it describes the way of living of a community living near the polar circle about which even Swedes don’t know that much. […] Intriguing: Ann-Helén Laestadius tells us in Stolen about living at the polar circle and structural racism.”
Stern (DE)

“A slight sense of magic speckles the realism like fresh powdery snow would speckle reindeer tracks. […] Sympathetically, Laestadius tells us what it means to live in a community where everyone is tied to everyone so that everybody knows each other, and in which, when in doubt, the individual counts less than tradition.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE)

“It’s very rare that a book enthralls me that much starting with its very first page. Ann-Helén Laestadius tells the intriguing story of Elsa, a story in which she interweaves almost unnoticeably the multiple problems that threaten the culture and impressive tradition of the Sami. […] Everybody who’s interested in the Sami culture and the world of animals inhabiting the utmost north of Scandinavia must read this book. […] The novel is also a glowing counterpart to the increasing number of novels that treat the salvation of nature in a romanticizing way.”
Westdeutscher Rundfunk (DE)

Stolen is convincing because it always stays with its characters.” (DE)

“This book is as suspenseful as a thriller and at the same time the portrayal of nature is incredibly poetic.”
Saarbrücker Zeitung (DE)

“This is, to me, the most interesting and beautiful novel of this fall; it moved and inspired me.”
Westdeutsche Allgemeine WAZ (DE)

“Intoxicating and moving.”
ORF Topos (DE)

“An exciting journey to Scandinavia.”
Die Rheinpfalz (DE)

Stolen is both a coming of age novel and a depiction of a culture that has been brutally marginalized by the rest of Swedish society for decades.”
Kölnische Rundschau (DE)

“Laestadius paints a nuanced picture of the Swedish Sámi culture, where traditional gender roles are strong, and it is difficult for women to assert themselves as anything other than housewives, and where the rigidity is not much better than in the society outside. She also has an eye for the human being behind the image of the loathed poacher, and her portrayal of the dementia-stricken grandmother is bitter-sweet and beautiful.”
Berlingske (DK)

“It is a poignant story, but also a poetic rendering of certain people’s dependency on nature and the conditions it provides. Cultural traditions and family life are central to the book as well, but it is the conflict that lies at its core. It may sound like a battle cry in defense of the Sámi and their conditions, and there is also a clear factual background to the story. But it is both a really well-written, beautiful and touching story about a strong girl who, as a young woman, fights for her rights as a woman and as a Sámi. I was deeply captured by the book, and I hope that many other Danish readers will be as well.”
Drustrups (DK)

“Ann-Helén Laestadius is one of Swedish literature’s new important voices, and Stolen proves why.”
Eurowoman (DK)

“This is a story for lovers of fiction, but also for those who like slow crime stories. A beautiful, wintery story about the Sami. […] A moving and suspenseful novel, which at the same time tells the story of the indigenous inhabitants of the north. […] If you like the atmosphere of the far north, snow and cold, and at the same time want a piece of good literature, this is a book for you.”
Zeiwerciadto (PL)

“She recreates the special atmosphere of the daily life in northern Scandinavia and sheds light on the sometimes conflicting relationship between those who lives there.”
Le Monde Des Livres (FR)

Stolen makes us discover the harsh reality that the Sami-people still experience every day. Stolen is a wonderful suspenseful novel that throws us into a rather unknown universe, where we discover an indigenous people, whose lifestyle is often despised and difficult. Elsa is a heroine made strong by her ordeals, deeply human and endearing, one of those we won’t soon forget.”
Page (FR)

“Ann-Helén Laestadius’s debut novel for adults highlights the discrimination Sweden’s ethnic minority Sami have suffered over the years for their determination to pursue a traditional lifestyle as reindeer herders. […] The opening section is written in a light and simple style, to give the perspective of a young girl. The plot is peppered with the routines, beliefs, crafts and lore of the herders. The clipped ears of each year’s calves are strung together on a thread to symbolise their unity. […] The arrival of a young police officer who finally takes the Samis’ concerns seriously propels the plot into classic Nordic noir territory; it’s no surprise a Netflix film is forthcoming. You can already see the blood and antlers on the snow, and hear the ominous roar of approaching snowmobiles, the sudden crack of a rifle shot.”
The Guardian (UK)

Stolen promises to be the catalyst for a greater global awareness of the range of issues facing the Sámi. First and foremost, itʼs a terrific novel. […] Looking north from the capital, Laestadius was able to calibrate her own feelings about her heritage and bring into sharp relief the plight of the Sámi. […] Stolen is excellent at documenting the casual, everyday prejudice endured by the Sámi, the half-heard whispered comments, the nimby complaints about untidy gardens, victim blaming, the sharp glances noticed when speaking the Sámi language. […] This is an important book for its concise amplification of the particular challenges facing a particular people inhabiting the northernmost part of our continent. Itʼs also an extraordinarily good novel.”
The New European (UK)

“In this moving crime novel Laestadius helps us comprehend what a terrible trauma for the Sami people this clash of cultures represents, and to bear witness to the erosion of their cherished way of life.”
Morning Star (UK)

“It’s not surprising that this story is being adapted into a Netflix film: this eye-opening, explorative insight into the Sámi community and a personal journey for the author has had a profound and lingering effect on me as a reader.”
Buzz Magazine (UK)

“[Stolen] highlights the paradox of being oppressed in one of the most egalitarian countries in the world […] the heart, and the great appeal, of this novel is its empathetic portrait of a young woman who flourishes in this harsh, but beautiful, landscape.”
Financial Times (UK)

“Despite the fury that inspired Stolen, much of its narrative is characterized by a quiet, pensive stillness, especially the first section, with its child’s-eye perspective and careful contextualization. […] It’s with laudable subtlety that Laestadius depicts the stresses and strains unique to a people trying to stay true to their ancient way of life while coping with prejudice, persecution and the unfolding impact of global heating.”
The Observer (UK)

“This is both beautiful and cruel.”
Crime Monthly (UK)

“It possess a strong narrative drive and offers and immediacy and accessibility that allows an unhindered glimpse into the experience of modern-day Sámi, making a convincing and fervent argument for greater protection of their land-tied way of life.”
Geographical (UK)

“In this moving crime novel Laestadius helps us comprehend what a terrible trauma for the Sámi people this clash of cultures represents, and to bear witness to the erosion of their cherished way of life.”
Morning Star (UK)

“An epic, multi-generational tale, translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles, Stolen is a clear-eyed, sometimes shocking account of the persecution of a people whose language has been restricted, their culture repressed and land taken from them. Laestadius’s description of the layers of trauma passed down the generations is particularly affecting.”
New Humanist (UK)

Stolen is an extraordinary novel. A coming-of-age-story you’ll get lost in, about youth and heritage and the never-ending struggle to be allowed to exist. Although set in the coldest and most northern part of Scandinavia, I’m convinced it’s a universal story to be loved everywhere in the world.”
—Fredrik Backman, internationally bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Anxious People

Stolen is in equal measure a gripping and thrilling mystery as it is a testament to the continued beating heart of Sámi life. Ann-Helén Laestadius takes her place as an important voice in world Indigenous literature.”
—Michelle Good, author of Five Little Indians

“Viscerally clear fiction of both the fractured, violent nature of the Sámi’s relationship with their Nordic occupiers and the coming of age of an innocent girl. Written with such cool clarity, Stolen is a perfect metaphor of our slippery grip on humanity and our tenuous relationship with the Earth.”
— Tanya Talaga, bestselling author of Seven Fallen Feathers

“A deeply gripping and atmospheric novel that will take hold of your heart. Filled with compelling characters and a formidable landscape—this debut is a triumph!”
— Danielle Daniel, award-winning author of Daughters of the Deer

“Beautiful and devastating, Stolen shines a powerful and important light on the Sámi community and the growing challenges they face in a changing world.”
—Carole Johnstone, author of Mirrorland and The Blackhouse

“Sámi author Ann-Helén Laestadius has written a fresh, devastating, and insightful novel about Sámi life and the struggle for justice in a rapidly changing world. A love for the imperiled landscape reverberates throughout this engaging read.”
—Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of How Strange a Season

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