A startling depiction of life-changing journeys of no return by a rising star in Finnish fiction.
From a rural, working-class childhood to a career at one of Helsinki’s most prestigious law firms, Susanna’s path in life has been longer than the miles alone indicate. Fatima’s journey to the doors of a Helsinki police station and, eventually, onto Susanna’s living room floor has been even more arduous: she has had to leave a child by the wayside and a husband behind in Iraq. Martta has never left her birthplace, yet she has been left behind, forced to surrender her loved ones, one by one: her firstborn on the doorstep of the vicarage, her husband to war and then to drink, her son to Sweden, her daughter to an unhappy marriage. All she has left is her great-grandson Luca, a boy who can’t seem to find his place in the world.
(Never) Going Back is a deft portrayal of individual lives uprooted and inexorably entwined across time and space. With bold, lyrical strokes, Satu Vasantola draws compelling portraits of today’s broken families and the struggle to survive in contemporary rural life. The narrative of an immigrant family reframes a Finnish family’s story, stretching a local canvas into a global backdrop. While solidly anchored in a changing Finland, (Never) Going Back perceptively depicts a changing Europe and a changed world. After all, the essence of life is universal. No matter who or where we are, we all have to stop from time to time to gaze up at the stars.
Tiiliskivi Prize 2019
“The winning work is topical, taking on the refugee crisis and the rise of neo-Nazism, and breathing new life into the inter-generational novel and familiar topics. The story begins in the present day and unfolds brilliantly with temporal flashbacks. The characters’ stories are transported in parallel on various different time levels, yet the story remains a unified whole.” Amongst other things, the jury cited the work as incredibly good and a really vital book that, besides drawing the reader in, also makes for a beautiful reading experience; a versatile inter-generational story harmoniously woven together in a unique, new way. – Tiiliskivi Prize Jury, 2019
“Satu Vasantola’s powerful debut novel brings together people from Peräseinäjoki, Jalasjärvi and Iraq – and believes in transformation. (…) Why did protagonist Susanna Luomantaus leave the vast expanses behind her? This family saga answers that question with its thrilling, powerful story imbued with mental history.” (…) “Vasantola’s novel does an excellent job of highlighting how climbing the social ladder is not really about material growth, but rather a transformation of one’s mental sphere of life.” (…) “Vasantola is an experienced journalist, and the narrator-led expression of her debut novel is convincing in its precision.” – Mervi Kantokorpi, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper
“… A splendid depiction of humanity – of love, hate, jealously and forgiveness. (…) Vasantola’s novel is a controlled, clear package. (…) The most enjoyable aspect of the event-filled novel is its strongly described, multifaceted characters. – Aamulehti newspaper
“At its deepest, the ethos of the novel is one of sociology and society. The quietly humming engine of the novel, the power underlying its events, is the ideal of growing into a functional, responsible member of society. The different time levels in the novel act as mirrors: what was required of people before, and what now. – Ilkka newspaper
“Vasantola delivers her characters through this literary press convincingly. (…) The novel is written in a key of optimistic realism. The book’s pages exude an idea that the world can be kept under control as long as people have common sense, take care of each other, work hard and strive forward. The characters are constructed with precision and the description of the setting is believable. – Ilkka newspaper
“The profound underlying plot of the novel, with its revelations and shocking twists, pulls the reader along.” – Kauppalehti newspaper
“Satu Vasantola’s debut novel is a startling depiction of journeys that change people’s lives profoundly and from which there is no return. Even though the thought of returning stays with them every day. – Hannu Harju, Publisher, Tammi Publishers
“I started reading this book yesterday and it is unbelievably good. Addictive. A distinctive voice. Ah, so many amazing things right at the beginning. I read late into the night”. – Anna-Stiina Nykänen, Journalist
“An excellent debut novel with a topical theme and strong character descriptions. Fluid text where behind the sorrows and injustices lies a glimmer of hope. Highly recommended!” – Henriika Tulivirta on Twitter
English sample translation
Letter from the Author