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Posted December 21, 2013
I really loved this book. It seemed to me more like a collection
I really loved this book. It seemed to me more like a collection of linked stories than a novel -- each chapter focuses on one of the eleven members of the family, so the overall development and temporal arc is not as obvious as in traditional narratives. Although the voices of the female characters do become a little hard to distinguish at times - just because there are so many of them - this book is full of small and big moments of truth. Chapters entitled "Total Loss" and "Rupture" BLEW ME AWAY. I am looking at them as individual stories and they were perfect, magnificent. Pylvainen is a tremendous talent.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 9, 2012
A close-up of reality within a conservative family
We Sinners is a debut novel evolving out of Hanna Pylvainen’s own life experience. Set in modern-day Michigan, the book puts a magnifying glass on a Finnish-American family who belongs to a hyper-conservative branch of the Lutheran church. So many normal social practices are banned that the nine children are alienated from their peers, but experience great love within their family. Some choose to leave the religion, some lose their faith, some fall into alcoholism, and some cling to their faith against all odds. The book is a series of vignettes, which coalesce to survey how the individual children react to the stringent code placed upon them by their religion. For instance, Brita, the eldest, must refuse an invitation to a high school dance, because of their belief to resist all temptation. She is very drawn to this boy, so her adherence to her faith is socially costly. Some of their struggles ring true to any family unit: Chicken pox passed through all the children, urgings to do homework, worry about the family dog, children squabbling. What is unique to the Rovaniemis family? Ordering pizza is a rare occurrence. Strict bans are placed on each child because of their religious beliefs. Drinking, smoking, dancing, movies and contraception are forbidden. Family meetings with hymn sings and mandatory repentance happen daily. Televisions and VCRs are banned, but the use of four-letter-words is frequent. Some children sneak out to go to a movie but never tell if a sibling did likewise. The inability to relax and enjoy life screams through the pages. The bottom line—How is your relationship with your family affected if you step away from a faith you no longer believe? The story of We Sinners is developed through nine chapters relating the children’s experiences. Each chapter can stand alone as a short story, but reading the book as a whole engages the reader into the struggles inherent in a fundamentalist environment. Family dynamics are strained at best. The jumps in time (some a few months, a few years, a decade) between chapters are mirrors of the tumultuous nature of their lives. The juxtaposition of the “grace of repentance” versus the taboos is ironic. Debut author, Hanna Pylvainen, pours her heart into relating her personal experience as part of the Rovaniemis family. She explores issues of personal identity, resisting temptation and moral contradictions. When the children’s stories are pieced together they are an amalgam of the struggles of love versus faith. Brita, the eldest girl, realizes “They were in the world, but not of the world.” Because of the constantly changing points of view, character development is slight, but the book is imbued with humanity. While the book is a bit fragmented and dark, the stories of these people ring true to life. Quill says: For a close-up of reality within an ultra-conservative religion and its effects on family dynamics, We Sinners is a heartfelt, honest appraisal worth your attention.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 24, 2012
"He was magnetic, that was the word. He was the kind of person who walked down the street and you didn't want to like him but you had to. You wanted to be close to him, for the same reason you went to museums or sat on beaches, simply to be done staring at the ugly things, to put them from your mind for an afternoon or an evening. It was why no one had crushes on her. She was the reminder of how hard the world was; it was in her face, the unfairness of life."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Hanna Pylvainen, author of We Sinners, reminds me of early Ellen Gilchrist. This is a good thing. Gilchrist won the 1984 National Book Award for her collection of stories, Victory over Japan and has written some of my favorite southern stories. Pylvainen's debut could be the start of something similar.
Her novel is a slight but smart series of perspectives of the eleven member Rovaniemi family who practice and preach Laestadianism, a form of Lutheranism "where everyone is much more hung up on being Lutheran than all the other normal Lutherans". Reading the book is like flipping through their family album and seeing snapshots of the camera ready moments, but then finding an envelope with the other moments, the real moments. We see a glimpse of each character as they confront their own "sins" and struggle with their faith or lack thereof. These sins and struggles are something every parent, child, husband, wife, sister, brother, lover, teenager encounters, regardless of their particular faith or upbringing. This is heartfelt, painful and resonating writing at it's best.
Posted August 22, 2012
I have not made it past the first chapter. It seems like a boo
I have not made it past the first chapter. It seems like a bookWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
written for "young adults," certainly the style is
painstakingly simple and clear. And boring
Posted March 11, 2013
No text was provided for this review.
Posted May 24, 2013
No text was provided for this review.