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Larry Warwaruk

Dunvegan (Ont.), Cormorant Books, 1991. 159pp, paper, $12.95
ISBN 0-929953-48-4. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Doug Watling.

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

Rope of Time is a decidedly unflashy novel that documents a Finnish family's odysseys from Finland to the United States, to Canada and to Russia. The book is written in a sort of epic short­hand closer in spirit to the traditional folk-tales than the usual generational saga. The style suits the material well.

The Maki family is the centre of Warwaruk's book. The one constant within the family is Lempi, a domestic impregnated by her Swedish master and sent back to Finland. Her brother, Tenho, migrates to America, Lempi's son Taisto marries and follows shortly thereafter. The stage is set for the divergent (and sometimes convergent) fates of the Maki clan.

The watchwords throughout the book are tragedy and duress, accepted implacably by the stoic Finns. The one exception is Matti, who spends his last years constructing a ship in the middle of Saskatchewan as penance for his wife's and son's deaths. Complicating the legacy of hardship are conflicting political allegiances within the extended family. Taisto's daughter, Sirkku, for instance, is an unrepentant communist who travels to Karelina to become part of the revolution.

To Warwaruk's credit, the Makis come across as more than stick-figure symbols of the Finnish struggle. The dialogue is mildly stilted, but never quaint. The characters are imperfect, as they should be.

Some scenes are also highly evoca­tive and original - at one point, Senja arrives in the U.S. after a two-year separation from Taisto, her husband. Taisto is distressed because he's still filthy from the mines. Everything is awkward, until Taisto manages a joke and the two are suddenly kissing and blubbering, oblivious to the rust and dirt sliding down their skin. Images like that and a refusal to bewail or pretty-up this family's fate make Rope of Time a surprisingly poignant tale.

Doug Watling, West Credit Secondary School, Mississauga, Ont.
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