StarTribune: Swede Hollow

Review of Swede Hollow by Ola Larsmo

A riveting family saga immersed in the gritty, dark side of Swedish immigrant life in America in the early twentieth century

Many Minnesotans of Swedish descent are familiar with Vilhelm Moberg’s “The Emigrants,” a mid-20th-century series of novels portraying the achievements and disappointments of Swedish immigrant life in rural Minnesota a century earlier. The story of Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson became a deeply moving two-part film series starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.

Ola Larsmo’s epic novel “Swede Hollow” is a stirring complement to that work and a timely reminder of the trials and uncertainties often faced by immigrants — and the courage they show in overcoming them. These Swedes of the early 1900s shared that shanty-pocked stretch along a fetid Phalen Creek with equally poor Italian and Irish immigrants, but the Swedes were most numerous and gave the place its name.


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