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We Sinners: A Novel by Hanna Pylväinen
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We Sinners: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Hanna Pylväinen

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9724124,414 (3.61)23
Member:tangledthread
Title:We Sinners: A Novel
Authors:Hanna Pylväinen
Info:Henry Holt and Co. (2012), Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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We Sinners: A Novel by Hanna Pylväinen

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Large family belonging to obscure religious sect. Very sensitive writing; multiple perspectives and no easy answers. ( )
  juliehath | Sep 20, 2014 |
It's a simple-beauty, this book - there's nothing all that earth shattering about it, nor is there anything radically exciting. Instead, it's a unique twist on a family story - adding the strict religious background adds a level of inherent tension to an already fraught life experience. You can't pick your family but you can pick your religion - and when the two get too wound into one another, it gets complex. That alone makes it worth the price of admission. But I felt denied at the end and as a result, I can't help but feel hollow; the contract I entered into with the book being invalidated because of a technicality or something.

More at RB: http://wp.me/pGVzJ-LM ( )
  drewsof | Oct 24, 2013 |
This is a series of interlinked short stories, which is just not my personal thing. So, don't let the low rating fool you if you're a fan of such things. The writing is nice and the characters are okay, but just as I was getting interested, it would switch. I was hoping for a more Poisonwood Bible type book, but this isn't it. ( )
  Brainannex | Sep 30, 2013 |
In this portrait-in-the-round of the religious Rovaniemi family - mother, father, and nine children - each section focuses on a different child, though not every child gets a chapter (it's a slender book). The publisher's blurb in an accurate summary:

"A normal family in many ways, the Rovaniemis struggle with sibling rivalry, parental expectations, and forming their own unique identities in such a large family. But when two of the children venture from the faith, the family fragments and a haunting question emerges: Do we believe for ourselves, or for each other? ...The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at the almost unbearable price of their close family ties, and those who stay struggle daily with the challenges of resisting the temptations of modern culture."

Quotes:

It was funny how kids were like that, how they drew different amounts of your attention. You cared for them equally, but you didn't show the care equally. You couldn't - you only moved your attention from one crisis to the next. (35)

...being in a family of eleven made her want to cry...the way that responsibility divided by eleven meant no one was really responsible. (39)

...but he was as good as his father at winning by waiting. (52)

...always she would carry the burden...the shame of having birthed something that could not be happy in this world... (63)

"Listen, you have a family who loves you. Family is all that matters. I've lived in three countries and eighteen cities and I've got a collection of golf pencils to prove it and let me tell you, it's never the place, it's the people." (106-107)

What was that like, she wondered, to know you were wanted, not because of everything you did, not because of everything you gave? (108)

It was a game in which the rules were never expressed and yet were very clear to all the players. (122)

"Never say never," Julia said, because it seemed kind, but she thought, never. It was not the kind of thing you could go back on, she reflected. Now that she had seen the world, now that she had been in it - she could not go back. (129)

"What happened?"
"Nothing happened. I don't believe anymore."
"Why not? Why can't you?"
"I don't know." She didn't know how to say, I don't want to.
...
"I don't want you holding my baby anymore," Brita said softly.
...
"It doesn't work like that-"
"It does work like that. There are sides, Julia." (131)

"You can't expect people to change if you never ask them to." (134)
  JennyArch | Apr 22, 2013 |
We Sinners is a collection of stories about the Finnish-American Rovaniemi family, located in the upper Midwest, mostly Michigan. The family of 11, 2 parents and 9 children, are members of the Laestadian Church, a conservative fundamentalist faith. In fact Warren, the father, becomes the minister of their congregation in the first chapter of the book.

After the first chapter, which deals mostly with the parents, their beliefs and parenting style (though style is too flattering a word), each following chapter deals with the various children in a coming of age format. Each child struggles with the social limitations and constrained behavior required of them by conservative church doctrine. Some leave the church, some do not, but all are equally haunted by the experience of growing up in a family where the church was placed above all else. It is interesting that none of the children simply drift away from their religious upbringing. This is a black and white faith, with no room for shades of gray in belief.

The final chapter, titled "The Whiskey Dragon", is not about the Rovaniemi family but it takes the reader back to the Lapp region of Finland in the 1840's at the birth of Laestadianism. The environment is cold, dark, and harsh. The Lapp people are easily susceptible to alcoholism. And fines are incurred for failure to attend religious services. I'm not quite sure what to make of Gunna, the main female character of the story. Since she has no descendents, she cannot be an ancestor to the Rovaniemi family. But she does reject Laestadianism and appears to be headed for self destruction at the end.

I look forward to reading more of this author's work. ( )
2 vote tangledthread | Jan 22, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805095330, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2012: At the center of We Sinners is the Rovaniemi family--two parents and nine children, all adherents of a hyper-conservative Finnish church in the Midwest. Each chapter takes the perspective of a different family member, furthering the tension between the belief that faith should bring family together and the fact that it is tearing the Rovaniemis apart. We Sinners is an impressive debut, a showcase of Hanna Pylväinen's gift for nuanced storytelling and an eye for beautiful, economical prose. But perhaps most impressive is that Pylväinen isn't afraid to take big risks with her first novel; the ending--which diverges greatly from the book's structure--drew a mixed reaction with our editorial staff. But love it or hate it, I found that I kept thinking about We Sinners long after I had set it on my bookshelf. -- Kevin Nguyen

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:57 -0400)

Describes a large modern mid-western family who belong to a church that doesn't permit drinking, dancing, or television and discusses their individual reactions when two siblings leave the faith for the temptations of modern culture.

(summary from another edition)

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