After losing her father, a Finnish-Irish girl slowly comes to understand her family and personal history in Fuller’s debut novel.
In 1973, 7-year-old Rose Virkkunen is blind—a psychological reaction to her father’s unexplained disappearance. A therapist helps to cure her, but Rose continues her quest to see things more clearly, especially through the art of photography. (Illustrator Anderson (Vector, 2011, etc.) provides Rose’s artworks, which nicely bolster the story.) Rose slowly pieces together information and stories from both the Finnish and Irish sides of her family: “She was interested in history, but not the history her teachers taught. She was interested in the histories of people she knew.” The place that she loves most is Summer Hall (aka Camp Karelia), where Finnish families come for the summer season; there, they stay in cabins, enjoy traditional saunas, and preserve their heritage by telling stories from The Kalevala, Finland’s national epic. As she nears adulthood, Rose struggles with her sexuality and gets drawn into a destructive relationship. Meanwhile, she comes to understand the struggles of an older generation of immigrants, including the hard work that they did in quarries and shipyards. By the novel’s end, she gains fresh insights about her father and herself. Fuller writes lyrically about a seemingly ghost-haunted world, often depicted in Rose’s photographs, which sometimes combine phantomlike images. The book’s opening is full of allusions whose meanings are initially obscure; for example, in an early therapy session, Fuller writes that Rose “felt them collecting in her mouth, the pieces of cedar bark. Her mouth flooded….And the white reindeer flew up, and the white reindeer flew down. Time wobbled and stretched out behind it like a rubber band, until time snapped.” The meanings, however, are effectively revealed bit by bit as part of a mystery that readers investigate alongside Rose. Along the way, every line and image demands and rewards readers’ full attention.
A rich, multilayered, and slowly unfolding literary work.