We Sinners

Holt. Aug. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9780805095333. $23. F
OrangeReviewStarPylväinen's first novel recounts several years in the life of the Rovaniemis, a sprawling Midwestern family of 11 who belong to a strict fundamentalist Finnish church that prohibits movies, dancing, alcohol, music with a beat, nail polish, and many other temptations of the modern world. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different family member, which allows readers to witness each of the nine children and their parents attempting to navigate the world outside their church and the perils of their desires, facing down crises of faith with dramatically different results. Over the course of the book, three renounce their faith, including the gay brother, while the rest retreat into the fold. They are poor, they struggle, they come together and break apart again and again, yet their love for one another is visible on every page.
VERDICT Pylväinen, who grew up in the same fundamentalist faith as her characters, doesn't judge their choices in this remarkably sensitive family portrayal, a powerful and unforgettable debut that manages to balance successfully its multiple perspectives.
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