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The Beggar & the Hare by Tuomas Kyrö

The Beggar & the Hare

by Tuomas Kyrö

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    The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna (celerydog)
    celerydog: Finnish classic on which this book is based

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Set in contemporary Finland, Tuomas Kyrö’s whimsical tale follows the riotous and unlikely adventures of recently divorced and unemployed Vatanescu, a Romanian construction worker whose prospects at home are so inauspicious that he signs himself up for work of a most dubious nature in order to make enough money to buy his son Miklos new football boots. Vatanescu’s new position sees him relocated to Helsinki where his human trafficking boss, a sociopath Russian named Yegor Kugar, sets Vatanescu and others up as street beggars. In exchange for his investment in their well-being, Kugar takes 75% of their proceeds for his employer, a hazy but ruthless organized crime syndicate. It all quickly goes bad, however, and Vatanescu is soon on the run from Kugar and his criminal cronies, though as consolation he does find himself a cuddly companion: a hare fleeing the wrath of a pest control company. The bulk of the novel is taken up by a series of zany escapades in which Vatanescu encounters people of all stripes going about their daily lives who sympathize with his plight and find ways to help him and the rabbit. In the process, through a series of highly improbable events (even more improbable than everything else that happens) he becomes a media icon, his image splashed on the front page of newspapers … which unfortunately makes it possible for Kugar to track him down. He survives this danger and after another improbable encounter is conscripted into the service of a political party that claims to speak for ordinary people of modest means. In this way Vatanescu becomes the face of the downtrodden Finnish everyman. A “modern retelling” of an earlier book by Arto Paasilinna, Tuomas Kyrö’s The Beggar and the Hare tells an uplifting story of goodness and kindness triumphing over uncaring selfishness while providing a few quiet chuckles along the way. It is, however, a book that seems all too smugly amused by its own comic conceit, and the relentlessly high-spirited narrative voice and ironic tone eventually become tiresome. The book is certainly entertaining, if you are amused by pratfalls and absurd hijinx, but it is not emotionally involving, and at some point you may find yourself reading not to discover what happens, but simply to get to the end. ( )
  icolford | Mar 26, 2018 |
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Follows a Romanian beggar living on the streets of Helsinki. Vatanescu, a young Romanian construction worker, desires two things: a future for himself and a pair of football boots for his son. So off he goes to a cold, dark country to beg. Despite reading about Finland in the novels of Arto Paasilinna, Vatanescu has no idea what he is in for, and soon he is living on the streets of Helsinki, throwing feasts from the contents of a dumpster with his fellow beggars. Little does he realize, however, that his employer is about to ruin his bacchanal, and much, much more... As Vatanescu flees from international crime organizations as well as the Finnish police, he finds an unlikely companion: a hare who has been sentenced to death for living within Helsinki's city limits. Together, Vatanescu and his new fellow fugitive set on a journey from Lapland to the National Idea Park construction site, to the upper echelons of Finnish politics.… (more)

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