Maija

Tiina Nunnally, Author Fjord Press $14 (220p) ISBN 978-0-940242-68-5
Beginning as it does with the death of the 60-something, Finnish American Maija, this first novel is like an elegy, tracing remembrances by family members before ending with Maija's funeral. The thread that binds together both the family--scattered from Copenhagen to Portland--and the novel itself is the relationship between Maija, a wise and independent retired schoolteacher who spent most of her life in Seattle, and her younger sister, Leena, a Milwaukee housewife, as played out through monthly phone calls. Maija's passing affects disparate members of her family--from the baby-boomer nephew whom she helped dodge the draft, to a niece who needed support in ending her marriage--and in her absence she becomes the agent of a new cohesion. There are compelling details here of the family's Scandinavian heritage--from snail-shaped pulla bread to Maija's respect for the ``animalistic beliefs of her ancestors.'' Unfortunately, the novel doesn't contain the depth needed to match its breadth of character and circumstance, and Nunnally's often breezy, straightforward writing style adds to a sense that the story skims too easily from one dramatic moment to the next. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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