Melancholy is often a misinterpreted word in fiction. It isn’t always a glorification of unhappiness or sadness, sometimes melancholy may be our only aid as we deal with the polarities and complexities of our everyday existence.
Dennis Frahmann’s fictional book ‘The Finnish Girl’ is a carefully researched and crafted novel that offers a comparative study of different generations of a Finnish family living and surviving in America through its many landmark social and political upheavals. The Finnish Girl unwinds like a fairy tale, albeit a slightly dark, meant for adults kind where there are no external heroes and villains and only varied circumstances which brings forth the good and bad in men. After introducing a 14 year old boy Danny, who unearths his dead mother’s old and mysterious trunk which offers up old letters & photographs revealing a secret in their family history, this novel jumps back and forth between the past and the present years in Wisconsin, USA. A young woman, Lempi straddles her personal life as well as mourns the mysterious circumstances and conspiracies her family history throws at her across different generations. Secrets sometimes brings people closer and sometimes it drives them apart and every decision, small or big has its consequence, a cross that they must bear in this lifetime.
The Finnish Girl is the narration of a bittersweet and forgotten memory of a family and their loved ones. It’s told through the eyes of Danny, as he finds out more about his family’s past and possible future in the wake of his mother’s sudden death due to suicide. It is a well-told story which could sometimes be mistaken for a historical fiction due to the juxtapositions of the lead character’s personal milestones with the many important American milestones of the 20th century. And while these moments may have been painful for a lot of people to live through, they were nonetheless an important part of the country’s history and it has been rightly acknowledged and captured in the course of the story telling.
Author Dennis Frahmann’s novel is an intense and emotions packed experience. It starts with a flourish and ends just as well and in between one gets to experience the author’s great skills as he masterfully juggles the emotional resonances and cogency of the narrative while never dropping pace of the story. The author has managed to successfully extract out of this book this sort of melancholic, radiant, poetic imagery with vivid descriptions that offers an introspective insight into relationships between members of a family. The non linear plot filled with melancholy, death, and family dynamics impacted by politics, forbidden love, and red scare is exquisitely structured. The Finnish family’s customs, values, joys and challenges too have been portrayed in vivid honesty and detail.
The cost of being different or just having lived through a strange period of time is perhaps what the characters leave you the most with, which also doesn’t shy away from celebrating the true and real feelings of love and its insecurities. The Finnish Girl is a moving, touching and beautifully written piece of literature. The narrative is so gripping and engaging that you will end up reading the entire book in one sitting. Even with the numerous storylines all weaving together, the mystery or the reason behind the character’s decisions keeps the reader wanting more till the very end. It is also a thought provoking character study told from multiple points of view. Highly recommended.
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Loon Town Books (July 30, 2014)