MAIJA by Tiina Nunnally


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A first novel that lovingly evokes warm family ties and essential niceness but doesn't much move the reader as it chronicles the life of a quiet, good woman. In the six days between Maija's sudden death and funeral, various members of her family recall the pivotal role this Finnish-born woman played in their lives. Maija, who married a Finnish-American art historian, settled in Seattle in 1948. Soon widowed and left with a small daughter, Briitta, she spent the rest of her life teaching elementary school, studying art, and volunteering for good causes. To her family she was a quiet pillar of strength, dependable in any crisis, especially any that affected younger sister Leena's three children. Leena, who married an American academic she met while helping rebuild a war-damaged Finnish town, spent her life in Milwaukee, but the two sisters kept in touch through a long phone call each month. Now Leena recalls Maija's premonitions: the recent ones that seem to have foretold her death, and the long-ago one when Maija's fears about a relative's wedding day were proved right. Meanwhile, Leena's elder daughter, Kirsti, a literature professor, recalls how Maija helped her when her youthful marriage broke down; the younger daughter, Elly, a drama teacher, remembers that when she became pregnant during her senior year of high school, Maija found her a job and later took care of baby Rachel when Elly needed a break; and Joel, their brother, a freelance translator, recalls how, when he was drafted during Vietnam, Maija hid him in her car and drove him to Vancouver. Maija's funeral, conducted by a Finnish-born pastor, is, appropriately, a celebration of her life. A welcome insight into Finnish culture, with plentiful shared warmth and feeling--though uniformly simple and flawless characters keep it in the most minor of minor keys.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1995
Page count: 206pp
Publisher: Fjord