Written by Riikka Pulkkinen
Elsa is dying. Her husband, Martti, and daughter Eleonoora are struggling to accept the crushing thought that they are soon to lose her. As Elsa becomes ever more fragile, Eleonoora’s childhood memories are slipping away. Meanwhile, Eleonoora’s daughter Anna spends her time pondering the fates of passersby. For her the world is full of stories. But the story that will change her forever is the one about Eeva, her mother’s nanny, whom her grandparents have been silent about for years. Eeva’s forgotten story, which Anna first learns of when she discovers an old dress of Eeva’s, is finally revealed layer by layer. The tale that unfolds is about a mother and daughter, about how memory can deceive us—and sometimes that is the most merciful thing that can happen.
Category: Fiction - Contemporary Women
“A beautiful, sensuous novel” –Library Journal
“Pulkkinen spins variations of [the] theme of transformative identity, having characters periodically relate to one another as if they were improv artists” –New York Times Book Review
“Secrets, long hidden, are revealed through alternating voices from her family's present and past in this poignant work of fiction.” –Barnes & Nobel Book Review
Riikka Pulkkinen studied literature and philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Her debut novel, The Border, sparked international interest when it was published in 2006. Her second novel, True, will mark her English debut. Riikka Pulkkinen received the Kaarle Prize in February 2007 and the Laila Hirvisaari Prize in May 2007.
Lola M. Rogers is a freelance translator of Finnish literature living in Seattle. Her published translations include selected poems of Eeva Liisa Manner in the anthology Female Voices of the North, published by Praesens of Vienna; the graphic novel The Sands of Sarasvati, based on Risto Isomäki’s novel of the same name, translated with Owen Witesman for Tammi of Helsinki; and Purge, by Sofi Oksanen, for Grove/Atlantic.
Grandma doesn’t know Anna’s thoughts. Suddenly, without warning,
“I’ve been thinking about you. What’s going on in your life? Or
what was going on, last year, the year before? We didn’t see each other
much. But your mother was worried.”
Anna turns her head. It’s easy to turn her head and look at the apple
blossoms, the climbing rose on the side of the house. Soon it, too, will push out buds and everything will start at the beginning again.
Grandma doesn’t give up.
“What exactly happened? What was going on?” Anna reaches for the cheese too quickly. The knife falls to the ground with a clink.
She’s spilled wine on the dress. One drop of wine dribbles between her thumb and forefinger as if it knows the way. The stain begins to spread over the dress. If she doesn’t put salt on it quickly it will never come out. It will never leave, no matter how much you wash it. It’s already growing.
“There was something going on for years, wasn’t there?” Grandma asks.
“Now I’ve ruined this dress,” Anna says, upset.
She’s still holding her glass. The glass shakes. Grandma is looking closely at her.
“What of it?” she says. “So what? It’s just a dress.”
“But it’s yours, and I’ve gone and ruined it. Do you have any salt?
Should I get some from upstairs?”
Grandma is thoughtful, as if she were looking right through her.
She opens her mouth to say something, closes it again, doesn’t look
away when she finally makes up her mind to say what she’s thinking.
“Actually, it’s not mine.”