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Out of the Blue

Italian book blogger. Loves Jane Austen, ice cream, and the colour blue.
We Sinners - Hanna Pylväinen E-galley received from Netgalley for review.

We sinners, we are just lying to ourselves, we are just alone.

I requested We Sinners for review on netgalley because I was fascinated with the excerpt I found on the promotional BEA ebook. It's quite an unusual book.

We Sinners tells the story of the Rovaniemis, a family of eleven (!) of Finnish descent living in modern-day Michigan. They are deep believers of the Laestadianism, a conservative Christian faith which frowns upon drinking, dancing, birth control, make up, TV, and music with a beat. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different family member. It's hard for them to make ends meet, keep their faith, and find their own individuality in such a large family. Eventually, three of the children abandon the religion, and this severs some of the family ties.

First of all, I had never heard of Laestadianism before, so I had to look it up on Wikipedia. It turns out it's like a strict version of Lutheranism which is particularly spread in Scandinavian countries. Anyway, it's not like you need to understand the details in order to get the meaning of the book. What believers can or cannot do is very clear: the girls can't even wear nail polish. Birth control is strictly forbidden (thus the large number of children, even though the repeated C-sections threaten their mother's life). One of the boys comes out as gay, and leaves the family as well as the religion. When his partner dies, his parents don't even attend the funeral.

I've often wondered why people would subject themselves to lives so deeply controlled by religion. I find it very hard to understand. The author was part of Laestadianism, so I'm sure she knows what she's talking about. There are no real answers in the book, other than the fact that everyone needs to find an answer for themselves.

I found this to be a very poetic book; the storytelling is almost lyrical. As each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, the narration is not linear, but evolves as in small circles. Sometimes I would've liked to stay with some characters longer than just a chapter, I would've wanted to find out what happened to them afterwards. It's an effective narrative choice, anyway.

Cover attraction: it gives the idea of a very large family. Each family member is there. It's not particularly impressive, but does the job.