During the winter of 1897, a diverse group of immigrants arrive in Swede Hollow: a ravine in the outskirts of the emerging industrial town St. Paul, described by the local authorities as a lthy dump. The only thing they have in common is that they have left a rapidly changing country behind.

The Klar Family from Örebro is escaping an event that might have disastrous consequences. David Lundgren is chasing a lost love across the sea. Inga Norström is searching for freedom and an increased sense of control over her own destiny. In this new, adopted land they are faced with a reality characterised by harsh working conditions, disease, grim winters and sudden bursts of raw violence, but together they find a way to make a living, shunned and despised by society but with dreams to “climb uphill”. Their dreams take on many different forms, but still extend into the present day.

Swede Hollow is a poetic tale of escape and rebuilding. It is a striking story about a family desperate enough to ee across an ocean, something millions of people can relate to even today.


First published by Albert Bonniers förlag, 2016

300 pages


Denmark, Bogreservatet
Sweden, Albert Bonniers förlag
US, University of Minnesota Press


A low-key and heartfelt portrayal of the price of immigration, a respectful attempt to give the Swedes in Swede Hollow, the forgotten and repressed from the collective memory, a voice. […] “Swede Hollow” is yet another confirmation of the novel’s strength as an art form, how it affects and changes us by letting us think about other people’s thoughts. After finishing reading you see the Klar family everywhere, because the history that Ola Larsmo has dug and weaved out of the ravine’s now overgrown anonymity is not American or Swedish, not yesterdays or contemporary but timeless and universally human. The story he’s writing is constantly repeating. People toil and strive, resign and survive, are let in and left out. Swede Hollow never ends. We are still there, we will always be there, together.”

Jens Liljestrand, Dagen Nyheter

” […] A swarming and captivating epic about the Swedes in the valley, about poverty and solidarity, joys and setbacks, strikes and lynchings, accidents and murders, fights and betrayals, funerals and mourning, but without any desire to return, only the longing for a better life.”

Ricki Neuman, Svenska Dagbladet

“With much empathy, Larsmo fortells about the Swedes in the valley. Not much time is wasted on The American Shed in Gothenburg, the journey across the Atlantic or the residence at Ellis Island. The valley is what’s central – and the people who live there. The women worked as maids or seamstresses, the latter is an ambiguous term that could just as well mean that they earned their living by prostitution. […]Ola Larsmo’s novel is mainly important because it gives a voice to a forgotten era in Swedish history. He thus problematizes – or rather develops – Moberg’s more picturesque storyline, […] this only underlines the value of the novel.”

Torgny Nordin, Göteborgs-Posten

“On a purely literary note, “Swede Hollow” is not only thoughtful, but also an enjoyable novel. Larsmo has an unerring language and a dramatical impulsion in the continuous chain of stories from different narrative perspectives, which the book is made of. “Swede Hollow” is simply hard to put down.”

Niclas Sennerteg, Ystads Allehanda