Name of the Exodus

Inspired by the movie challenge I decided to list the books that have most impacted or influenced me in some way. This was way more difficult than picking ten movies and I simply could not restrict me to 10 but decided to go with 15 instead. I have read way more books than I’ve seen movies, and I love reading way more than I enjoy watching a movie.

  1. Saariston lapset (Astrid Lindgren)
    This is the the book that made me a book dragon. I devoured the book and then continued to devour book after book, first the other Astrid Lindgren books I had, then everything else in my own book case, then everything from the local library.
  2. The Tripods (John Christopher)
    My debut SciFi read. My friend recommended this trilogy and borrowed me the book too, and I loved it. I think I read it multiple times after that, once in my adulthood too. I never owned the book until a couple years ago when I decided it was something I needed to have in my own library.02tripods
  3. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
    This WSOY series of “girls’ books” <3 All of the Anne of Green gables books, the Emily of New Moon books, I had them all, I read them all, and I loved them all. 2020-05-16 18.01.42
    I guess this one got picked into the books that made an impact on me simply because it was the one I modeled my first attempt at book authoring by. I wrote several chapters of something sort of similar to this story until I moved on to something else.03littlewomen
  4. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
    We used to have a bunny. Well, actually several, but when I was 9-13 years old, we had the first bunny and I got this book for Christmas or birthday or something during that time. It made me cry, it made me think I somehow understood the bunny better, it gave me a new partial language what with the rabbit language invented by Adams. I still remember a tidbit like Narn = good and Hraka = poop. And rabbits only count to four, after that everything is Rhair (million).04watership
  5. Exodus (Leon Uris)
    Mom had this book – like all of Uris’ books, and I did read them all too, some many times – in her book case. It was one of the first books I read from her collection, probably after having read some Ian Flemming’s Bond books and Peter O’Donnel’s Modesty Blaises first. I loved the story and later on it prompted me to read e.g. Bodie Thoene’s Zion Chronicles series.05Exodus
  6. Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
    I actually saw the movie first (so it could’ve been in that list too). We watched it in school maybe some religion class thing? It made a strong impact on me – the story, the monks, the mystery, the sex on the kitchen floor :D – and I went and got the book from the library and read it and loved it every bit as much as I had loved the movie.06nameofrose
  7. Trinity (Leon Uris)
    Trinity and Redemption really go together, I mean they are two parts of the same story, after all. However, Trinity came first and obviously I found it in my mom’s books, read it and was immediately smitten with Ireland. Have been too, ever since. Later on, when Uris released Redemption, I immediately bought it (I already had all of Uris’ books in my own collection at that point).
    In my late teen years my mom also introduced me to the series The Emerald Ballad series by B.J. Hoff and that more or less sealed it. Anyhow, I think I used to be Irish in one of my previous lives. Most probably a leprechaun of sorts ;)07Trinity
  8. Daddy-Long-Legs (Jean Webster)
    Out of all these “Nuorten toivekirjasto” books (that included books like The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Huckleberry Finns, all sorts of adventure books and classics and whatnot), this was my favorite. You can believe I was thrilled when I learned that Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn had made a musical of the story!08setapitkasaari
  9. Tuntematon sotilas (Väinö Linna)
    The Unknown Soldier. One of the absolute Finnish classics, the book about the WWII in Finland. One of the rare classics that I have loved and read multiple times (I usually find classics somehow pretentious in the high-culture-boring kind of a way). I’ve seen all three movie versions of this book, the newest one being my favorite.09tuntematon
    Favorite quote
    Hietanen: “Mää ole hiilest tehty ahvena.”
  10. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
    I can thank my mom for this one too. She told me when I was a teen that she really loved The Thorn Birds and that prompted me to read the book (in Finnish). I fell in love with the story and through this book started reading other McCullough books too. I have read this book dozens of times, in Finnish. Only a few years ago did I finally order the English copy, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.
     I love this book so very much that it was quite the disappointment, when my mom finally confessed to me – not long before she died! – that she actually had never read the book. Her fascination had more to do with Richard Chamberlain than the story itself. Chamberlain being Father de Bricassard in the 4 episode TV series, which I also do love. It’s actually funny how the storylines mix sometimes, for I can fully picture the book with the TV series characters playing each scene of the book in my mind.10thornbirds
    Favorite quote
    Meggie Cleary: “And there’s one thing you’ve forgotten about your precious roses, Ralph, they’ve got nasty *hooky* thorns!”
  11. Tim (Colleen McCullough)
    I read this one right after the Thorn Birds and it touched me possible even deeper in some ways. Tim, the simple man, who finds love with a lonely older woman. Tim, whose family thought him just a simpleton and a burden. Beautiful story!11tim
  12. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
    I was just about fourteen when I read this book, more or less the same age as Anne Frank when she wrote it. It touched me deeply! Later on in the early ’90s, I also read the sort of similar more contemporary book “Zlata’s Diary”, taking me to the war zone of Bosnia. Reading the stories of these girls made me solemn in a way. Just so sad, yet grateful.
     In 2012 I went to Amsterdam for the first time and one of the things on my bucket list was to visit the Anne Frank House. We did – I was traveling with my current husband – and it was practically a religious experience for me.12annefrank
  13. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
    I hijacked my dad’s old copy of this book already as a teen, when I first found it at our summerplace and read it and the sequels. This wasn’t my first Dumas book – I’d already read the Three Musketeers and it’s sequels – nor was this the last, for I went to read quite a bit more Dumas books after this one; my great-grandfather was a fan and we have a proper collection at the summerplace.13montecirsto
  14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
    Out of this collection of books, this is the first one I actually read as an adult; all previous ones I read as a teen. Somehow I just had never even known about this book until my sister, who fraternized with nerds, talked about it. Still it took me quite some time to get around to it. At first it was a “I guess I should read what it’s all about” but then it ended up being one of the best books I’ve ever read, and definitely my most quoted book.14hitchhiker

    Favorite quote
    Ford Prefect: “There is no point driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself from going mad. You might just as well give in and save your sanity for later.”

  15. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
    The most recent of these books. This was a really strong, wonderful story of wartime Europe and a little girl stuck in the midst. I also got the movie, after reading the book, and while it too was awesome, the book was just something in its own sphere.15bookthief

Other little trivia about my books and reading:

  • The other Astrid Lindgren books I had and loved were ‘Veljeni Leijonamieli’, ‘Mio, poikani Mio’, ‘Marikki ja kesäkummun Tuikku’, Ronja ryövärintytär’, and ‘Rasmus ja kulkuri’
  • I still have the others in my bookshelf, but my son hijacked Veljeni Leijonamieli and Ronja Ryövärintytär when he was younger, so he has them now
    2020-05-16 18.01.54
  • The first ever book I tried to read was “Pelastuspartio Bernard ja Bianca” (The Rescuers, by Margery Sharp), but somehow it only bored me and I never got further than maybe 50 pages in the book
  • In the summer of 1984 (when I had just turned 9) my mom tried to challenge me to read five books during my summer vacation. I thought it impossible, and it was. However, during the following autumn I found that Saariston lapset, and haven’t stopped reading since
  • During my pre-teen and teen years I frequented our local library and read basically every book I could find that interested me even remotely. Later on, I moved on to some bigger libraries for more selection
  • I did get a bit of a reading exhaustion when I was studying in the Uni and had to read so much for my studies
  • When I was on sick leave while pregnant with my daughter, I read a book a day; I had borrowed a pile of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books and read all day long while my son was in day care (I was in bed rest due to preliminary contractions)
    2020-05-16 18.01.28
  • I’ve been an Evanovich fan ever since and have read all of her books
  • When my kids were small, I had really little time to read, so I restricted my reading to the new releases of a few favorite authors: Janet Evanovich, Tess Gerritsen, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, James Patterson, and Michael Palmer
  • Sometimes, if a book really has me hooked, I may cook and walk dogs and do whatnot with my book in the other hand
  • I love “real paper books” and I love my own library, but there is no way I could fit all my books in a normal home, so I read a whole lot of books in Kindle too
  • Besides, Kindle is easy since it’s always with me right there in my phone
  • I usually have two books going at the same time: one paper book and one Kindle
  • I currently read more in English than Finnish, but one of my favorite authors is Finnish: Max Seeck – I love his thrillers!
    2020-05-16 18.01.22

[Find some book recommendations on my About Books page and recent reading history in Goodreads]


Two drunks are sitting on the low wall next to Lidl. Skinny legs crossed, beer can in hand, puffy face turned to look at the store-goers and sneer at those better-offs getting our of high-end cars like BMWs and Mercs. People like us. When we come out, they have vanished.

Driving out of the parking lot and turning on to the main road, we see a fragment of a hat, a glimplse of a face, a ray of light reflecting from a beer can. The dudes have migrated to a nook in the little patch of forest on the other side of the road. “That’s one kind of a life, I guess,” I think to myself as I wonder if they have a family somewhere, wishing they were home instead.

A young woman sporting a backpack running down the street in jump shoes. Is she out for a workout or in a hurry to get somewhere? “Would be fun to try out jump shoes sometime,” I note, as another thought enters my mind: my family would not let me put them on, in fear that next they need to call an ambulance.

Middle-aged man in an electric wheelchair in the hardware store with his wife. Wife is browsing the shelves while the man sits helpless in the wheelchair, waiting. Wife finds whatever tool she was looking for and they go through the cash register. “How would that feel? To be bound to a wheelchair, not being able to contribute,” I wonder and recon that it would still be different for me and for my husband. I might take it as a relief from all this *doing*. He might go down in despair.

Three teens sitting in swings in the park, just loitering, being teens. For a fleeting moment I think: “Ah, that freedom of being young! With no care in this world!” Then I remember it’s just an illusion. Teen years are harsh and probably more difficult than anything that comes later. Unless you’re BPD and have a permanently underdeveloped frontal cortex.

The tram starts from the traffic light. It was all predictable, but I fall down on my ass all the same. My balance has failed me, again. It was less than a week since it did it in a bus. I find myself sprawled on the tram floor, in my clunky heels and in my dress. Less than gracefully I gather myself up as fast as I can. People look away demurely. Only two young ladies seem worried as they ask if I’m ok. I decide not to be embarrassed, smile at them and tell them I’m fine. With an aching ankle I step out as we have reached my stop, and hold my head up high as I walk towards my destination.

Stories. We all have our stories and when we see other people out and about, a small fragment of our story is revealed. Most of the time it is puzzling to anyone watching, because the short moment is out of context. Only when you get to know a person, talk to them for some time, do you get to know the outlines of their story. Only when you spend time with them for years on end, might you actually learn their story.

Take a random excerpt from a book. It may intrigue you, it may be meaningless, it may sound completely insane. Read the book flap and it may make sense. Maybe you want to read more and decide to get the book. Maybe it is disinteresting and you will never find out what lies beneath those covers. Obviously, you will never be able to read all books in this universe. Obviously it’s not necessary either.

In her book called “Outline” Rachel Cusk delves into people’s stories in a way that the main character remains practially unknown. All of the characters do, really. It’s all about fragments, pieces of life, that get told. Some stories you can relate to, some not so much. It is an interesting read, but so intense that it felt like overload. Like being trapped in a social situation, forced to listen to people cite their life to you. In the end, I wouldn’t have cared to learn more about any of them. I also decided that I didn’t care to read the rest of the trilogy.

This blog of mine, it too is just fragments. Little bits and pieces of my life, crumbs and morsels of my mind. We all choose what we share with the rest of the world, irl and online. We all construct an official story to show the world and conceal the real one lying beneath. Occasionally the curtain flutters, occasionally you might see through someone else’s curtain. You will still see only a little bit of what’s beyond.

So be kind, do not judge. For you don’t know the whole story. You don’t know what the smile covers up.

Loma, laatikoita ja muutama tuhat sivua

Loman viimeinen viikko pyörähti käyntiin sillä, että heräsin blogipostauksen villiin pyörinään päässäni. Koko loman ajan vaivannut writer’s block on ilmiselvästi tiessään, mikä tietää hyvää suunnitelmalleni pyhittää tämä viimeinen viikko kirjaprojektilleni. Siis kirjoitusprojektilleni. Kirjakäsikirjoitukseni hiomiselle. Mies nimittäin palasi jo töihin, joten paineet jatkaa pihan viimeisiä rakennusprojekteja siirtyivät päivästä iltaan.

Sitäkin lajia on nimittäin tässä loman aikana riittänyt, vaikka terassi saatiinkin valmiiksi jo ennen miehen loman alkua, ja paljukin terassin reunalle (sellainen “puhallettava”, inflatable, you know). Siinä tasaisella alustalla on ollut hyvä rakentaa vähän varastolaatikoita (neljä, tarkalleen ottaen) ja juuri nyt vielä puolivalmiina lähinnä metsämaantien bussipysäkkiä muistuttavaa piskuista puutarhavajaa, ja helliä väsyneitä lihaksia iltasella paljussa.

Tuo tuollainen rakentaminenhan ei ihan varsin ole minun juttuni. Minä lojuisin aurinkotuolissa tai riippumatossa kirjani kanssa vaikka aamusta iltaan. Se on lomaa parhaimmillaan! Olinkin siis varsin iloinen siitä, että siinä ensimmäisellä lomaviikollani keskimmäinen lapsonen tuli meille liki viikoksi jeesailemaan isäänsä (palkkaa vastaan tietenkin ;) ) ja muutenkin vähän olemaan meidän kanssamme vaihteeksi. Minä sain rauhassa lukea, kun isä ja tytär kulkivat rautakaupoissa ja lautatarhoilla ja rakensivat ja pulasivat.

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Kyllähän minä sitten luinkin! Lomani ensimmäisten parin viikon aikana lukaisin Harry Potterit alusta loppuun, ensimmäistä kertaa, suomeksi (erinäisistä syistä). Pojalla on hyllyssään ne englanniksikin, ehkäpä ne ovat sitten ensi kesän projekti. Esikoinen hurahti Pottereihin noin kymmenen vanhana ja nuoremmat sisarukset seurasivat perässä, jos eivät samalla innolla lukien niin ainakin elokuvien (joita meillä on kaksi settiä syystä x) ja pleikkapelien muodossa.

Potterit olivat niin monta vuotta niin läsnä elämässä, etten itse jaksanut ajatellakaan niiden lukemista. Vaikka itse asiassa tosikoinen taisi juuri katsoa koko leffasarjan jälleen kerran läpi, ja kai niitä pleikkapelejäkin ovat välillä pelanneet yhä, ne eivät samalla lailla enää täytä tilaa kotona, joten minulle aika kypsyi lukea ne, täyttää tuo Potterin muotoinen aukko sivistyksessä. Tai loput siitä, sillä väkisinkin olen nähnyt paloja elokuvista ja ainakin pari niistä kokonaankin.

Jaa mitäkö niistä tuumasin? Ensimmäiset pari olivat vähän köykäisiä, selkeämmin nuorille (lapsille) suunnattuja. Kirjat ja tarinat paranivat loppua kohti, vaikka pidin niistä heti ensimmäisestä lähtien. Ne imaisivat mukaansa ja soljuivat helposti eteenpäin. Paitsi se ihan viimeinen, jonka alkupuoliskon jälkipuolisko oli vähän junnaava ja fiilikseni oli vähän samanlainen kuin Ronilla: ei tästä mitään tule, haahuillaan vaan; miksei Harryllä ole suunnitelmaa valmiina? Kun se sitten taas lähti käyntiin, haahuilu tuntuikin merkitykselliseltä. Sitä vaan oli noiden kirjojen kanssa tottunut jatkuvaan äksöniin.

Tuomio: kyllä, ne kannattaa lukea. Viisi tähteä.

Ihan samaa mieltä en ole Frantz Kafkan kirjasesta Investigations of a Dog, johon tartuin Pottereiden jälkeen, ehkä vähän liian suurin odotuksin (joilla ei ollut mitään tekemistä Pottereiden kanssa). Lukaisin tuon 50-sivuisen lehtykäisen yhdessä illassa, keveän pettymyksen siivittämänä. Petyin siihen vähän samalla tavalla kuin David Duchovnyn hyvin erilaiseen, popularistisilla kliseillä kyllästettyyn kirjaan Holy Cow. Kummassakin oli potentiaalia, joka jäi täyttymättä. Kumpikin jäi keveäksi, vaikka ensimmäistä nyt ei voi parhaalla tahdollaankaan sanoa keveäksi lukea. 

Kafka on toki aikakautensa tuote. Nietchemäinen ajatusten kietominen monimutkaisiin lauseisiin oli ehkä pakonkin sanelemaa, jos halusi olla vakavasti otettava ajattelija. Minua se vain tympii. Siksi Nietchekin on yöpöydälläni kesken. Kahlasin sitä satakunta sivua viime talvena, enkä jaksanut enempää. Suunnitelmani on jatkaa sitä jossain vaiheessa, mutta who knows. Se on raskasta lukea. Kuten oli tuo Kafkakin. Vähän ajatusta, paljon sanoja. Ihan hyviä ajatuksia, mutta aivan liikaa sanoja.

Todellinen ajatus jää oikeastaan aika köykäiseksi, kun se kiedotaan koristesanoihin. Vähän niinkuin nainen, joka ei oikeasti näytä juuri miltään, mutta saadaan oikeanlaisella meikillä ja hiusten laitolla näyttämään kaunottarelta. Nainen, jota satunnainen yhden yön hoito aamulla säikähtää, kun meikit on poissa ja hiukset sekaisin. Kuinka kummoinen voi olla ajatus, joka pitää esittää niin monimutkaisesti, ettei sitä tyhmempi tajua ollenkaan ja vähän älykkäämpikin harhautuu koko ajatuksesta sivuun kymmenrivisen lauseen myötä?

Tiedän, että minullakin on taipumusta koukerteluun. Paavalilaiseksi äiti sitä kutsui. Pyrin kuitenkin tietoisesti yksinkertaistamaan ilmaisuani, jotta se on ymmärrettävämpää. Kafkat ja Nietchet ja sen sellaiset syövät minun silmissäni koko uskottavuutensa olemalla teko-fäncyjä. Kirjoita niin monimutkaisesti, ettei kukaan ymmärrä, niin kuulostat älykkäämmältä ajattelijalta kuin kukaan muu. Onhan kai sekin oma taiteen lajinsa. Elitistisen älymystön älytöntä hifistelyä.

Niin, tuo koiran tutkimus oli tarinanakin jotenkin köyhä. Koira kohtasi jotain selittämätöntä, siis sellaista, mitä ei kyllä ihminenkään osaa selittää, ja lähti siksi kyselemään, miten maailma antaa ruuan. Paastosi itsensä henkihieveriin vastausta etsiessään, eikä silti ollut lähempänä vastausta, sillä ruoka ei vain tullut. Koirasta tuli skeptinen vanha narttu, joka halveksui naapuriaankin, jolle kasvotusten oli mielinkielin. Missähän pöllyssä Kafka on ollut tarinaa kirjoittaessaan? Jos haluaa lukea koiran näkemyksiä elämästä, kannattaa ennemmin tarttua Cervantesin kirjaseen The Dialogue of the Dogs.

Tuoss vaiheessa, kun Potterit oli sopivasti luettu, ja olin viettänyt pari epävakaista kesäpäivää tosikoisen, koirien, isän, isän vaimon ja toiseksi viimeisen Potterin kanssa landella, oli jo tytärpuoli palannut äidilleen ja mies tarvitsi apua rakentamisproggiksissa ja minun lukemispuuhani jäivät iltapuhteiksi. Ei siinä mitään sinänsä, sillä varastotila on todellakin tarpeen, jotta tuosta pihasta saa joskus siistin. Ihan nurisematta en K-Rauta-keikoista ja boxien kasaamisesta selvinnyt, mutta melkein.

Laatikot ovat nyt valmiit ja reunustavat terassia kolmella sivulla. Puutarhavajakin tosiaan bussipysäkkiä muistuttavasti puolivalmis, eli siitä puuttuu etuseinä ja ovi, ylimmät seinälaudat sekä kattohuopa. Eilen lupaismme naapureille vapaapäivän remppamelusta, joten vapaapäivän sain minäkin. Mitä siis tein? No, luin, tietenkin.  

Kafkan jälkeen lukaisin Anja Snellmanin omaelämäkerrallisen kirjan Antautuminen. Se on ollut lukulistallani ilmestymisestään saakka, mutta vasta viime syksynä kirjamessuilta sen poimini itselleni ja vasta nyt sain sen luettua. Itsekin erityisherkkänä (ja BPD:nä ja whatnot) löysin siitä paljon itseäni, mutta myös paljon hyvin erilaista kokemusta, tietenkin. Vaikka en voi sanoa saaneeni siitä mitään konkreettista, se oli minulle todella vahva lukukokemus.

Suosittelen lukemaan tuon, olipa sitten itse HSP tai ei, olipa lähipiirissä erityisherkkiä tai ei. Kirja avartaa, avatessaan mielen sopukoita käytöksen takana. Kirja kertoo Anjan elämäntarinan löyhästi, tunteiden ja mielenliikkeiden näkökulmasta ennemmin kuin minään kronologisena kertomuksena. Miksi toimin näin? Miltä tuntui tämä? Millaiset tuntemukset ja ajatukset päässäni risteilivät, kun? En ole lukenut muuta Snellmania, joten en osaa verrata tyyliä, mutta tämä oli hyvin runollista luettavaa. Nautinnollista.

Eilen olin tosin siirtynyt tuostakin jo eteenpäin. Hikisen helteinen päivä löysi minut milloin varjon alta, milloin aurinkotuolista, lopulta riippumatosta kädessäni melko tuore kirja Profeetan soturit. Kotimaista kirjallisuutta jälleen. Olen viime aikoina lukenut enemmän kotimaista kuin edellisinä vuosikymmeninä yhteensä. Kasvua ehkä sekin? Jostain syystä minulla on ollut kotimaista kirjallisuutta kohtaan ehkä suomalaisen rujon elokuvateollisuuden synnyttämää ennakkoluuloa, jonka Max Seeck ja Mikko Porvali onnistuivat rikkomaan.

Joskus nuorena, kun haaveilin kirjailijan urasta, tuumailin, että kirjoittaisin itsekin englanniksi. Ymmärsin sen kuitenkin kohtalaiseksi haasteeksi – ei siksi, ettenkö kykenisi tuottamaan oikein pätevää tekstiä, vaan siksi, että asun Suomessa. Täällä kustantaja odottaa suomeksi kirjoitettua, tai ehkä ruotsiksi kirjoitettua. Ja jos kirja on vaikea saada julkaistuksi omassakin maassa, kuinka sitten suoraan ulkomailla? Tokkopa vaan. Ei sillä, että tuosta koskaan tuli todellista ongelmaa, sillä eihän minusta kirjailijaa tullut.

Kun sitten pari vuotta sitten – niin kauanko siitä jo on? – aloin viimein kirjoittaa sitä tarinaa, jota olen mielessäni valmistellut koko tähän astisen elämäni, kyllä se kovin luontevasti vain lähti suomeksi syntymään. Niin vahva ja vanha kieli kuin englanti minulle onkin, äidinkieli on kuitenkin äidinkieli. Vaikka toisinaan blogitekstini syntyvätkin englanniksi. Mikä missäkin tilanteessa ja hetkessä luontevimmalta tuntuu.

Life is a book club

“Reading isn’t the opposite of doing, it’s the opposite of dying.”

When you love reading and are surrounded by (or at least have one or two in your life) with others who love reading, your life becomes a book club quite naturally. You read, you talk about what you’re reading and what you’ve read, you share ideas, thoughts and books. Even if you don’t necessarily read the same book at the same time. Those traditional “everybody read this book and then we discuss it” book clubs have somehow always rubbed me the wrong way.


Will Schwalbe and his mother had a book club somewhere between the idea of “our whole life has been a book club” and a traditional one. Just the two of them. A book club that had nothing and yet everything to do with Will’s mother’s, Mary Anne’s, pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed at a point where she was supposed to have maybe four to six months of time left. She however lived for two more years, going through chemo and other treatments. A whole lot of the book club actually happened in the outpatient center waiting for chemos and doctor’s appointments etc. In fact, that’s where it started.

From the very beginning this true story totally engulfed me. Not that it was a page turner, not really, but there were so many aspects to the book, that simply drew me in on a very deep level. For one, and the main reason I even got interested in the book, there were the books those two were reading. My list of books to read grew significantly while reading this one. And then there was the whole setting of terminal illness, treatments, the relationship between the mother and the son, all about the people and their realizations and Mary Anne’s wisdom. It all made be pause and reflect here and there and constantly, making reading the book quite slow.

I made as many as 35 (exactly, it seems!) bookmark notes in the book while reading it. Highly irregular for me, but this one I really wanted to be able to return to through some passages I found especially good or hitting home. My first note is marked on the very first sentence of the book: “We are nuts about the mocha in the waiting room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering’ outpatient care center.” Oh, I’m nuts about the cappucinos of Espresso House, but the mocha was not the reason for the note. It’s just that the book had me with its very opening line. The best ones do.

Actually, that thought is in the book too, at the very beginning of the second chapter, “Appointment in Samarra”. Each chapter title marks something Will and Mary Anne read – a book, a flyer, an article, a new version of an old story. Will and Mary Anne were suckers for opening lines, too. And books about books and reading. And Mary Anne shared my habit of checking out the ending first. This, by the way, is a learning point for me when reading in Kindle. Of course I can go the end of the book in Kindle too, but then it messes the furthest read point. So I don’t. So I endure the suspence on a much more intense level than with paper books where I can just flip throught the pages occasionally to ease my mind.

While books and reading were definitely the salt and sugar of the book, the setting of cancer and dying threw me right back to the time when my mother was diagnosed and treated and dying and died. It was a difficult time for me – us all, obviously, but I had my own issues with mom and they pretty much exploded at that time, making my relationship with mom cordial at best, at the time of her death. Mary Anne and my mom shared a bunch of qualities and then again were like night and day.

My relationship with my mom was much like Will’s with his, until the ugliness of things surfaced. While Will realized that part of the process of his mom was dying was mourning not just her death, but also the death of his dreams of things to come, I realized that I was mourning a mother I hadn’t had. Not to get me wrong – I was close with my mom. In fact, the whole problem lies exactly there: I was too close with my mom. It was a codependence that ripped me off my integrity as a person.

Funny how little things can make you feel like you totally can relate to someone else’s life and story. I was in the middle of a meeting when my mom called me to let me know about her cancer. Will was in the middle of a book fair, working. Will found himself crying for the first time for his mom on a flight – though his mom at that point still very much alive. When my mom died, I cried properly for the first time a couple weeks later, on board an airplane, headed to Las Palmas to bury my mother.

Also, Will’s mom was quite religious about thank you notes. My dad, too. Or at least thank you phone calls. Where Will spent Christmas Day writing notes, I called my grandparents and godparents to thank them for their Christmas gifts. I hated those calls. I felt awkward and apart from my grandma, the receivers of them seemed to feel a bit awkward (or maybe it was all just me). My grandma took the opportunity to go on and on about what she’d been thinking when buying the gift, how extraordinary she had found it and “isn’t it just the best thing since sliced bread?” And I’d feel even more awkward. My dad called to remind me about these calls still when I was over thirty, until I once totally snapped about it. Will found later on, that there’s a great joy in thanking. I still rather give than thank. I think I’m traumatized ;)

It also seemed to me, I was a pretty similar kid as Will. Preferring the indoors with books to the outdoors with sports. Rather reading and talking about books and music with his friends, huddled in his room, than outside doing sports. Not that those two necessarily rule each other out, just as a preference. I was a pretty lonely kid, with books as my best friends, but I do remember spending hours with my few friends just reading together. We’d swap books – which is how I found e.g. Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls series – and read some more. Then we’d go for a swim, play some badminton outside, go skiing, and play cards. Or go out to the lake in a row boat and read there!

The list of books mentioned and talked of in this book is so long that I won’t bother to even start. A few are worth mentioning, though, the first one being The Hobbit. Tolkien has never really been my thing, but I think I figured out why: Will read it while being delirious with fever. I think I might have enjoyed it like that too ;) Will did return to The Hobbit as an adult though, and noted that it still had the same power over him. I thought I might give Hobbit a chance, maybe, some day. Possibly. I never got past page 150 of the Lord of the Rings, and if a book takes that long (or longer, I suppose) to begin and draw me in, it’s not my kind of book.

One book that, due to its nature as a daily passage book, is mentioned and referred to throughout the book. “Daily Strength for Daily Needs” is the title of this book. Mary Anne gets an old used copy of it and somehow the worn book with markings and dog ears makes it a remarkable book in itself. It is quite religious in its passages, having some Christian thoughts and some non for each day. Mary Anne immediately falls in love with the book and carries it with her always. Sometimes she leaves it lying out in the open, opened at a certain page, for Will to find and read too. She doesn’t push, for Will is not religious, but she offers. And the book itself intrigues Will too.

Even though I read a lot in Kindle, I still love those actual paper books. I love having a library, I love seeing and touching and smelling books, and I very much love my old copies of books, many of which I haven’t even read. There’s something about the physicality of a book, especially one that has been owned before. Like the previous owner(s) have left something of their life and story behind in the book. Most of my old books belonged to my grandparents or great-grandparents. We’re a pretty booky family, just like Will’s too. He also shares my notion that eBooks are good for consuming certain types of books on the go, but there’s a lot that you simply need to have physically.

One of Mary Anne’s many projects was gathering funds to build a library in Afganistan. Mary Anne traveled the world taking part in all sorts of humanitarian aid projects and fought for women’s rights where there were none and towards the end of her life, when she could channel her strength to one thing anymore, she chose to make this library her first and foremost priority and was determined to see it through before she died. She more or less did too.

When asked, why this library was so important to her, she answered not that because she loves books and thinks their important but because “sometimes even before medicine and shelter-they want books for their children.” Because she had seen the power of books, not just in her own family’s priviledged life, but specifically for those less fortunate in this world. “When ever you read something wonderful, it cahnges your life, even if you aren’t aware of it,” Mary Anne noted a bit later in the book. Indeed! Even when you read something not so wonderful.

Another one of my favorite quotes about reading comes not from Mary Anne or Will, but is form the book The Uncommon Reader, quoted in this book. In the passage, the Queen of England says: “Books are not about passing time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it. If one wanted to pass time, one could go to New Zeeland.”  Now ain’t that the truth!

Mary Anne lived her life going to places most people don’t dare go because of the war and the unrest. Places my husband wouldn’t let me go for fear of something happening to me. Still she never regarded herself a brave woman – though most other people did. Her notion of bravery goes in the lines of “bravery is not somehing you do because you do without fear; it’s something you do in spite of it”. One could then draw the conclusion that Mary Anne was not afraid of dying, not when she went to those places and not when she suffered her cancer, and she said so much herself too. She lived as much, too. My mom, too, said so, but in the end she feared death more than anything.

Dealing with death, you inevitably think about loneliness too. The loneliness that will result from the death of someone you love. Growing up, mom was my best friend (something she accomplished by guilt tripping and isolating me, the latter being maybe not so calculated, though). As I noted, I was a lonely kid. I had a few good friends, but one after the other they all moved away. I spent a lot of time alone with my books and little sister. Will touched the subject of loneliness while he and Mary Anne were reading the book Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki. There, a teacher says: “Loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern world, so full of freedom, independence and our own egoistical selves.” Will thought it true. Me, I’m not entirely sure.

One thing is for sure, though. If you have siblings, you are never entirely alone. Will has two siblings. I have a sister, who was a total nuisance to me when growing up (though of course I loved her even then!), and whom I almost lost from my life (mostly thanks to my mom) at the point when mom was dying, but who has always been there for me, like I’ve been there for her. At the era of personalized cell phone ring tones, my sister’s tone on my phone was the Friends theme song. As said, we had a bit of a fall out but managed to correct things later on and currently talk weekly over messenger (as she lives on the other side of the Atlantic with her family). She’s the one I have my “book club” with. We don’t always talk about books, but often we do.

We also talk a lot about our kids, oviously. Mine are already adults, or almost. Her’s are only starting their school career, one just finishing first grade, the other one still a preschooler. Naturally we talk a whole lot about raising kids – and about our parents and how we were raised. Will writes about this when reflecting on a book called “The Price of Salt”, that made him remember something from his childhood. “You piece together your parents’ child-raising theories by analyzing later why they did what they did. One of the many great things about having siblings is that you get to do this in a communal, Talmudic way.” True dat! My only regret is that with our age difference and very different lives, we have only got to this with my sister, when my kids are practically grown. Then again, its just as important to me as a person as it is for making decisions about your own ways of raising children. So better late than never, I suppose!

While being hugely different in so many ways, my sister and I are still rather similar in some ways. She is meticulous and religious about rules and wants to do the child-raising thing by the book (which book, though, is sometimes the question) wheras I paint with the big brush. “Lite ditåt”, my grandmother used to say. It means more or less on the spot, close enough. One thing we have in common is the need to devour stories, read books, to widen our horizons, to understand this world and people better. Here my husband is quite different: he reads to learn “stuff”, things. And a vast knowledge about all sorts of things he has too! One of the things I fell in love with. And this is something I realized while reading this book and how Will describes the differences between Stieg Larsson’s detective characters and their ways of acquiring information and understanding.

“While Lisbeth Salander finds what she needs on the computer, Bloomkvist looks to books and genealogies and photographs  […] for his discoveries. The two characters compliment each other, as do their approaches to knowledge.” I think this very much goes for me and my husband too.

At the end of the book Mary Anne dies, obviously. Surrounded by her family. In this book, you didn’t need to flip to the end to understand that. Will wrote his book, which he had started to plan already while his mom was still alive, Mary Anne even giving him some notes for it. She did love to be in the middle of things and influence pretty much everything. At some point while reading the book I simply had to google her too. She did seem to be quite a remarkable woman! Read and be inspired!

“We’re all in the en-of-our-life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

Ruokaa ja kirjoja

En oikein voi sanoa suhtautuvani kumpaankaan intohimoisesti, sillä en suhtaudu oikein mihinkään intohimoisesti, mutta rakastan kumpaakin, ruokaa ja kirjoja. Olen myös varsin vaikutteille altis, joten ei liene ihme, että kirjat vaikuttavat minuun niin monin eri tavoin – mielialoihini ja mielitekoihini niinikään.

Jätän kirjoja hyvin harvoin kesken, sillä uskon, että ei-niin-hyväkin kirja, opettaa minulle jotain. Kesken jättämäni kirjat voi laskea noin yhden käden sormilla: Pelastuspartio Bernhard ja Biance (tylsistyin kuoliaaksi), Taru sormusten herrasta (tylsistyin kuoliaaksi), Anna Karenina (tylsistyin kuoliaaksi) ja ensimmäinen ja viimeinen Viisikko, jota yritin lukea (siinä syötiin aivan liian usein, ja ruoka oli aika kökköä eväsruokaa, kuten sardiineja ja sen sellaista).

Ihmiset lukevat eri syistä ja erilaisia kirjoja luetaan eri syistä. Pohjimmiltaan lukijoita on kuitenkin kahta kastia: niitä jotka lukevat oppiakseen asioita, ja niitä jotka lukevat oppiakseen ymmärtämään. Those who read to gain knowledge and those who read to gain understanding. Eiväthän ne toisiaan pois sulje, tietenkään, mutta ohjaavat kirjavalintoja non-fictionin ja fictionin välillä.

Itse olen erittäin vahvasti jälkimmäistä kastia. Luen oppiakseni ymmärtämään maailmaa ja erilaisuutta ja erilaisia ihmisiä ja ihmismieltä paremmin. Jokainen lukemani kirja avartaa minua ja maailmankuvaani, ja parhaat auttavat minua ymmärtämään myös itseäni paremmin. Pieniä ahaaelämyksiä tai isoja oivalluksia.

Luin vastikään Maeve Binchyn kirjan Kastanjakadun väki (Chestnut Street), joka sijoittuu kuvitteelliselle kadulle Dubliniin. Luin jostain, että Dublinin turisti-info saa jatkuvasti kertoa ihmisille, ettei kyseistä Kastanjakatua oikeasti ole, sillä ihmiset haluaisivat päästä fiilistelemään kirjan miljöötä, siinä missä Notting Hilliäkin samannimisen elokuvan katsottuaan (niin minäkin!).

Juuri niin kirja tekee. Maalaa kuvan jostakin, minkä haluaisi nähdä oikeastikin. Kun lukee paikoista, joissa on jo käynyt, tulee kotoisa olo, “tuolla minäkin olen kävellyt!”, ja kun kulkee paikoissa, joista on lukenut, ne tuntuvat tutuilta jo ennestään. Ja kun kirjan henkilöt syövät jotain, haluaisit istahtaa pöytään heidän kanssaan, maistaa samoja makuja, nauttia samoja nautintoja. Paitsi jos tarjolla on jotain niinkin proosallista kuin sardiineja ja ruisleipää. Niistä tulee fiilis, että pitäkää piknikkinne.

Niinpä en ollut ollenkaan yllättynyt, kun eilen iltasella tajusin, että minun tekee ihan hirveästi mieli biryania. Siirryin Dublinista Delhiin, Arundhati Royn Äärimmäisen onnen ministeriön matkassa. Ensimmäisen tarinan (hassua, että satuinkin valikoimaan peräjälkeen kaksi kirjaa, jotka koostuvat useista vain ohuesti toisiinsa liittyvistä tarinoista, etenkin kun en yleensä sellaisista juuri perusta) Anjum syö paljon biryania.

Biryani oli helppo. Melkein sitä meinasin Woltilla tilata kotiin, mutta päädyin lopulta tekemään sitä itse. Kotoa löytyi kaikki tarvittava, paitsi jugurtti, jota mies haki kaupasta sillä välin, kun kana suli. Nyt on kana-biryania, ja hyvää onkin!

Kaikki mieliteot eivät ole olleet ihan niin helppoja toteuttaa – ei etenkään takavuosien Suomessa. Dunkin Donut’sin Boston Cremeä (Janet Evanovichin Stephanie Plum -kirjat!) pääsin maistamaan ensimmäistä kertaa vasta liki kymmenen vuotta sitten Berliinissä. Fried Chicken (saman kirjasarjan innoittama) löytyi niinikään Saksasta, missä pysähdyimme KFC:hen syömään autoreissulla joskus viime vuosikymmenellä. Jostain syystä Southern Fried Chicken ei tullut mieleen.

Kay Scarpetta kokkaa vaikka sun mitä fancyä italialaista piinaavien mysteereiden lomassa, jopa niin, että Patricia Cornwell on julkaissut myös Scarpettan keittokirjan Food to Die For, mutta ei ole jostain syystä koskaan ollut kiinnostusta sitä ostaa. Scarpettan innostamana kyllä on tehty pastaa ja risottoa ja grillipizzaa. Italialainen keittiö ei ole uutta eikä erikoista, mutta grillipizzaan en ollut ennen noita kirjoja törmännyt.

Evanovichin eräässä toisessa kirjasarjassa (Fox & O’Hare -sarja, jonka viimeisintä kirjaa odotan kuin kuuta nousevaa – kaksi viikkoa siihen, että se tippuu Kindleeni) Kate O’Hare sanoo, tilattuaan puoliraa’an kobe-pihvin ja kaksi aurinkomunaa: “Egg yolk is nature’s own steak sauce.” Ilahduin suunnattomasti, sillä sitä samaa olin minäkin sanonut miehelle moneen kertaan syödessämme aamupalaksi entrecôtea ja sunny side up -munia.

Kananmunista puheen ollen, uppomunia en ollut koskaan ajatellutkaan maistaa, en ennenkuin luin erään kirjan, missä miniä ei anopin mielestä koskaan osannut tehdä niitä oikein (minä nyt en osaa vieläkään, mutta Dublinissa niitä maistoin kyllä). Paahtoleipä peanut butterilla ja kirsikkahillolla on myös kirjoista kotoisin (ajalta jolloin suomesta ei saanut maapähkinävoita, joten odotin ja odotin, että saisin sellaista maistaa), mutta Steph Plumin oliviit ja maapähkinävoi eivät oikein ole sytyttäneet.

Kuvaukset tuoreesta paksusta leivästä, jonka päälle voi sulaa, saavat lähes poikkeuksetta minut leipomaan leipää tai sämpylöitä. Ja kyllä, Asterixien vuoksi aina halusin maistaa villisikaa, kunnes maistoin ja totesin, ettei se oikeastaan ole juuri tavallista possua kummempaa. Kuitenkin, samaisten sarjisten vuoksi edelleenkin rakastan syödä broilerin koipia kädet rasvasta liukkaina. Don’t ask :D

Ainakin minua siis kirjat ovat vieneet makumatkoillekin – joskin kai useimmiten lähinnä ne aiheuttavat mielitekoja, jotka ainakin pyrin täyttämään melko saman tien. Jotenkin sekin syventää kirjan kokemusta, että syö samaa ruokaa kuin kirjan henkilöt. Sitä sukeltaa vielä himpun verran syvemmälle kirjan maailmaan, kun täyttää vatsansa kirjassa kuvatuilla herkuilla.

Toisaalta toisinaan kirjoissa vain on suunnattoman mielenkiintoisia ruuan kuvauksia ja niitä pitää saada maistaa, ihan vain koska. Toisinaan taas ei, ks. Viisikko. Niin, ja Kastanjakadun väki söi aika kamalaa safkaa, kuten liha-munuaispiirakkaa, ja papuja ja paahtoleipää (ei kummassakaan yksin tosin mitään vikaa, mutta että yhdessä?). Kastanjakadun väki oli tosin muutenkin aika surullista porukkaa.