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FINDS/FINLAND - They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen

FINDS is hosted by AnnaBookBel and the goal is read to read one book per Nordic country during the first five weeks in 2023. My goals for FINDS is:

Finland - They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen

Iceland - Cold as Hell (1st Áróra series) by Lilja Sigurdadottir

Norway - The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas

Denmark - Silence in October by Jens Christian Gröndahl

Sweden - The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

As of mid January I have just finished Valtonen’s book. It turned out to be rather long, but a very interesting book. Sigurdadottir’s Cold as Hell from Iceland turned out to be shorter and faster to read, so I have finished that one as well.

They Know Not What They Do is a more solid story that it lets you imagine from the beginning. First of all, when I checked out the internet for the title of the novel, a biblical quote came up. Of course, once seeing this I do understand the title of the book. Maybe because it is in English, I did not make the connection to the biblical quote.

The quote is from Luke 23:34: “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus also used these words when he was crucified as regards the people who sentenced him.

“On the surface, Joe Chayefski has it all. A great job, a beautiful wife and two perfect daughters. But when the lab he works in as a neuroscientist is attacked, Joe is forced to face the past and reconnect with the son he abandoned twenty years earlier.

As Joe struggles to deal with the sudden collision of his two lives, he soon finds he needs to take drastic action to save the people he loves.”

The main characters of the story is Joe and his first wife, Finnish Alina and their son Samuel. Joe never really comes to turn with living and working in Finland. He has partly given up his academic career to be with his family. The story starts around 1960s or 70s before the explosion of global access via computers and internet. He leaves his family to go back to the States when his son is just a few months old. Unfortunately, for all involved there is no contact between father and son.

The mother, Alina, is a somewhat unreliable character. It is difficult to get a grip of her. Unsure of herself, in her early motherhood, it takes years for her to find a meaning in life. She seems not to encourage a relationship between her ex husband and son.

Samuel grows up with an over protecting mother, who also instills a certain ambivalence in him. Although never talking about it, he does miss contact with his father. He has inherited his interest for natural science and is doing very well at school. However, on his first job, he happens to see something that totally changes his direction in life.

The father, Joe, is making a great, academic career when he returns to the state. He marries Miriam and they have two daughters. Both of them are successful and have a great life. From time to time he thinks about his other life, but it does not make in impact in his present life.

Not to reveal too much of the quite intense story that starts out like a normal love affair, but twenty years later turns into a nightmare. Valtonen has managed to include a lot of societies problems today into this family drama; the climate question and its impact on, above all, young people, scientific research and its moral dilemmas, the IT explosion and its intrusion into the private sphere. He is doing it very well, highlighting the focus from different sides of the spectrum. The drama is evolving in a thrilling way, as we follow Joe, Alina and Samuel and their attempts to control their surroundings.

It is a very good story, although I thought it slightly too long. But he keeps up the tension to the very end, and you really want to know how it ends. The ending is somewhat surprising, or … maybe not. An excellent thriller about the world of today. If I would summarise the main point in one word, I would say it is about communication. Or the lack of it.

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