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The “ceaselessly brilliant" story of one man who banishes himself to a solitary life in the Arctic Circle, and is saved by good friends, a loyal dog, and a surprise visit that changes everything (Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son)

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize


In 1916, Sven Ormson leaves a restless life in Stockholm to seek adventure in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago where darkness reigns four months of the year and he might witness the splendor of the Northern Lights one night and be attacked by a polar bear the next. But his time as a miner ends when an avalanche nearly kills him, leaving him disfigured, and Sven flees even further, to an uninhabited fjord. There, with the company of a loyal dog, he builds a hut and lives alone, testing himself against the elements.
 
The teachings of a Finnish fur trapper, along with encouraging letters from his family and a Scottish geologist who befriended him in the mining camp, get him through his first winter. Years into his routine isolation, the arrival of an unlikely visitor salves his loneliness, sparking a chain of surprising events that will bring Sven into a family of fellow castoffs and determine the course of the rest of his life.
 
Written with wry humor and in prose as breathtaking as the stark landscape it evokes, The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven is a testament to the strength of our human bonds, reminding us that even in the most inhospitable conditions on the planet, we are not beyond the reach of love.
 

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews

Praise

“Ceaselessly brilliant as an arctic sun, The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven illuminates the very nature of human yearning and perseverance. In attempting to inhabit the uninhabitable, one man shows us that no place is inhospitable to the human heart, and in delivering this searing portrait, Nathaniel Ian Miller ascends to the firmament of today’s most exciting young novelists.”—Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son
“Captivating… Miller offers a marvelously detailed look at a way of life and a profession practiced in an extreme environment, and though purportedly based on a historical figure, the character’s colorfully rendered experiences are the stuff of powerful dramatic fiction.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Readers will love the beauty and depth of his story… A Swedish trapper relates his unique life with insights about friendship, hardship, and solitude.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“Miller’s prose is lit by sparks of Sven’s somber humor and descriptive elegance... Miller's characterization is exceptional and thoroughly engaging, as are the vividly portrayed island denizens… Miller has given [Sven] an imagined life told in his own words in this engrossing fictional memoir.”
 —Bethany Latham, Booklist (starred review)
The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven is pure delight. From the first page, I was transported to a world unlike any I’ve experienced or even read about—a bleak and unforgiving landscape where ice bears, subzero temperatures, and Sven’s own worst impulses conspire against him, where loneliness and terror coexist with his growing appreciation for the flinty beauty of life. Only in such a place, I came to understand, could such a solitary man—emotionally stunted, misanthropic, self-pitying, disfigured—discover the bonds of friendship, and find family in a ragtag band of misfits. This novel’s hard-won wisdom, droll humor, and offhanded insights about human nature will pierce you to the core.”—Christina Baker Kline, New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and The Exiles
“A kind of Odyssey, complete with dogs worthy of Argos and a few precious human companions, this spare and unusual novel plumbs the dark side of polar narratives. Sven, as mysterious to himself as he is to us, is an unforgettable character.”—Andrea Barrett, National Book Award–winning author of The Voyage of the Narwhal and Ship Fever
“The magic of The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven is in its defiance of dark expectations. Sven is a bright but disaffected urban bookworm who moves to one of the most forbidding landscapes on earth, finds dangerous work, suffers a hideous maiming, and hides his appearance by retreating into even greater isolation. And it is here, at the doorway to unmitigated despair, that Nathaniel Ian Miller truly surprises and shines. For all Sven’s damages, his desolation makes each visitor indelible, as into his arctic dystopia traipses a cast of emotionally damaged misfits, estranged family members, military outlaws whose crime is love, an irresistible scrounge of a dog, a gifted trapper of few words and a kind geologist of many, until we are regaled with some of the most convincing portrayals I’ve seen of human beings creating connection and kindnesses despite their brutal circumstances and unhealed wounds.”—David James Duncan, author of the national bestsellers The River Why and The Brothers K
“Nathaniel Ian Miller’s vision of the Arctic is one of sharp-toothed beauty and harrowing, clarifying hardship. The men and women who manage to survive the landscape are transformed by the effort, forced to question who they are and who they want to be. Their surprising, rule-breaking lives invite the reader on both a polar adventure and a consideration of what makes our lives worth living.”—Caitlin Horrocks, author of The Vexations
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