Haymaker in Heaven

A Novel
“Hoem, drawing from his own family history, masterfully distills the seismic shifts of emigration into the poignant farewells of one family.”—BOOKLIST
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From one of Norway’s leading writers, translated into English for the very first time, comes a transatlantic novel of dreams, sacrifice, and transformation set at the turn of the twentieth century.

The year is 1874. Nesje is a recent widower with a young son, working as a haymaker on an estate in the town of Molde and steadily clearing his own small holding. Then he meets Serianna—an outsider, looking for work, who takes him fishing and smokes a pipe and is thoroughly unlike anyone he’s met before. Soon the two fall in love and marry, and Nesje begins to dream of a prosperous future.

But prosperity is hard to come by. Some Norwegians—including Serianna’s spirited sister, Gjertine—have begun to immigrate to the American West, attracted by the glimmer of land and commerce. One of Nesje’s sons follows, while another moves to the city and becomes a wealthy merchant, and another is adopted by Serianna’s childless brother and sister-in-law. In Norway and in America, however, the turn of the century is approaching: mechanization is superseding skilled labor, the moneyed classes are growing ever more powerful, and sacrifices don’t always deliver what was promised.

Haymaker in Heaven is a sprawling saga—drawn from Edvard Hoem’s own family history—and a vivid portrait of two countries at a critical moment of intersection.

Publish Date
8.5 × 5.5 × 2 in
15.7 oz

Edvard Hoem

Edvard Hoem is the author of Haymaker in Heaven. He has been one of Norway’s leading literary writers since his breakthrough with the Critics’ Prize–winning novel The Ferry Crossing in 1974.


Tara Chace

Tara Chace is the translator of Haymaker in Heaven. Her translations from the Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish include work by Jo Nesbø, Per Nilsson, Lene Kaaberbøl, and Agnete Friis. She lives in Seattle.

Praise and Prizes

  • “[A] saga of family, devotion to the land, and immigration … Hoem’s family history is tethered to the turbulent history of the period as family members deal with the effects of industrialization, populism, and immigration … A reminder that the consequences of immigration touch those who stay as well as those who go.”

    Kirkus Reviews
  • “Hoem, drawing from his own family history, masterfully distills the seismic shifts of emigration into the poignant farewells of one family.”


  • “Unhurried passages delineating the fickle nature of late-nineteenth-century Norwegian courtship or the finer intricacies of saddle fabrication are in abundance, lending a lived-in mien to every divot and pore in the novel’s rolling landscape … Haymaker in Heaven is a resplendent, wholehearted affair worth getting swept up in.”

    Justin Walls
    Center for the Art of Translation blog
  • “A magnificent piece of writing about the American dream … Haymaker in Heaven is an unusually fine-tuned written narrative.”

    VD (Norway)
  • Haymaker in Heaven is a brilliant depiction of an upheaval that exists to this day… . [Its] sober, concrete and sensual style breathes life into the characters and their surroundings.”

    Bergens Tidende (Norway)
  • “An uncommonly beautiful novel … So poetic, entertaining and well-written that I enjoyed every page.”

    Dagbladet (Norway)
  • “Magnificent … Hoem is a gifted storyteller. The simple, efficient language works whether he is depicting nature, the weather or people encountering love… . [Hoem] tells the story with a sweeping pen and in a way that makes us a little cleverer.”

    Fædrelandsvennen (Norway)
  • “[Hoem] displays the unique ability to illustrate the pioneers’ actual living conditions, their will to succeed, their courage—everything that has since become an American creed. He depicts the interplay between the emigrants and the hope that always seems to triumph over despondency with a sensuality that makes it all very real.”

    Adresseavisen (Norway)
  • “Good-natured yet genuinely good … What makes this small slice of Norwegian history really interesting reading is the contrast between the lives of the humble characters and the elevated language with which they are described… . This is Hoem’s solution to the historical novel’s problem: the language means that you never doubt the point of view.”

    Klassekampen (Norway)