Laestadius - priest, botanist and forensic expert
To Cook a Bear is the fantastic story of revivalist preacher Lars Levi Laestadius and the young Sami boy he saves from a ditch and cares for. It is the summer of 1852 in the Kengis village of Sweden’s far north, and Jussi – as the boy is called – has fled from a cruel home plagued by abuse, starvation, and alcoholism.
Jussi becomes the preacher’s faithful companion and disciple. Laestadius is an avid botanist, and with Jussi in tow he sets out on long botanical treks filled with philosophical discussions. The preacher teaches Jussi all about plants and nature; but also how to read, write and not least to love and fear God. For it is revivalist times, and thanks to Laestadius impassioned faith spreads like wildfire among the locals. While the preacher’s powerful Sunday sermons grant salvation to farmers and workers, they gain him enemies among local rulers, who see profits dwindle as people choose revival over alcohol.
One day a maid goes missing in the deep forest, and soon thereafter another disappears. One of them is found dead, the other badly wounded, and the locals suspect a predatory bear is at large. The constable is quick to offer a reward for capturing the bear, but the preacher – who in both instances was the first to be called to the crime scene – sees other traces. Traces that point to a far worse killer on the loose. Along with Jussi, the preacher reinvents himself as something of a forensic expert, unaware of the evil that is closing in on him.
To Cook a Bear is a riveting tale of great events in a small community. A gripping and vivid read, it manages to both entertain and to burrow deep down into the great philosophical questions of life. Reminiscent of Victor Hugo’s Les misérables and Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, To Cook a Bear goes straight to the heart.
“Niemi’s prose is rich and visual, the story a blend of redolent, historical tall tale and detective novel. […] The portrayal of the orphaned Jussi is both clever and compassionate, and will linger long after finishing the book.”
“The new novel To Cook a Bear fulfills the everlasting expectations attached to everything Niemi has done since Popular Music from Vittula. The narrative zest, the humor and warmth of the dialogue, the suspense, and the instructiveness of the historical setting. A fine book, simply put.”
“With characteristic elegance, the author weaves a tall tale out of Læstadius’ life … A well-written, accessible, and entertaining historical novel that provides insight into Læstadius’ thoughts and deeds, while simultaneously depicting the Sami; their language and plight as a colonized people.”
“When Niemi takes on Læstadius, the latter also assumes the role of forensic scientist, following a murder in the woods. Even the title of this historical novel – To Cook a Bear – promises precisely that bleakness, rawness, humor and revelation of man that I have enjoyed in Mikael Niemi’s previous books.”
“Mikael Niemi’s new novel contains both powerful personal portraits and a sensitive depiction of the nature and botany of Tornedalen. […] The story evolves from an evocative opening to a phenomenal finale, a finale that is painful to read but nonetheless irresistibly suspenseful.”
“Mikael Niemi has written a novel as folksy as a Vilhelm Moberg and as locally genuine as a Sara Lidman or a Torgny Lindgren. And oh, how his writing sings.”
Czech rights sold to Argo
Danish rights sold to Modtryk
Dutch rights sold to AtlasContact
Faroese rights sold to Sprotin
Finnish rights sold to Like
French rights sold to Stock
German rights sold to BTB
Italian rights sold to Iperborea
North American rights sold to Penguin Books
Norwegian rights sold to Oktober
Spanish rights sold to Destino
UK rights sold to MacLehose Press
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