Marja Kangas
Publication date
June 2020
Format info
285 pages

The Only Way Is Up

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A laugh-out-loud novel about surviving when life gives you lemons but you don’t like lemonade… 

Sirkku’s sailor husband, Jalo dramatically dumps her. Shocked she didn’t see it coming, Jalo’s bolt out of the blue decision sends Sirkku spiralling out of control on a rollercoaster of emotions.

As a professional actress, Sirkku ought to be more in touch with her emotions and know how to deal with them, but this time she’s totally out of her depth, calling on her friends, therapistseven the universe—for help.

What follows can only be described as a shipwreck: Sirkku sends far too many texts she might later regret, gets a brand new hairstyle, goes to an organ concert on a whim, and gets drunk on box-wine in her wedding dress.

A shamelessly entertaining, uplifting, and delightfully ironic novel about love and divorce by a new voice with buckets of talent, The Only Way is Up is Marja Kangas’ debut novel about finding yourself in a crisis and learning how to get out of it. With its unbridled combination of elation, crying a river and feeling very, very sad, Marja Kangas delivers all the ingredients of a side-splitting novel, with clear comparisons to Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, David Nicholls’s Us, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.

Marja Kangas was the winner of major Finnish publisher WSOY’s 2019 writing competition to find the next, new voice in commercial fiction. The competition panel faced the daunting task of choosing a winner from an overwhelming 788 entries, but it was Marja, who won their hearts and minds with her novel.

The Only Way is Up premiered in a stage adaptation produced by Turku City Theatre and EMMA Theatre in June 2022 to glowing reviews.

Marja Kangas (b. 1974) is a drama teacher and writer, originally from the Finnish town of Kuopio, though she divides her time now between Barcelona and Turku, Finland. She also teaches creative writing and takes great pleasure in having a good, long cry followed by a good laugh—often to herself first. The Only Way is Up is her debut novel.


Finnish edition
English sample translation 82 pp
Author letter

Prizes and nominations

2020, shortlisted for BookBeat’s ‘Newcomer of the Year’ Prize
2020, shortlisted for Storytel’s ‘Audio Book of the Year’ Prize
2019, winner of the WSOY Writing Competition


“Uproariously funny and painfully relatable. Causes binge-reading.” — Laura Friman, writer & broadcaster

 “Simultaneously a description of the breakdown of a marriage and the kind of novel that makes you scream with laughter.” — Jari Pietiläinen, Helsingin Uutiset newspaper

“A hilarious novel!” — Eeva-Kaarina Solmela, Ilta Sanomat newspaper

 “[The Only Way is Up] won WSOY and Prisma’s Writing Competition, which called for entertaining page-turners on the theme of relationships. It’s no wonder that Kangas won: her novel is a wonderful example of chick-lit… From beginning to end, [The Only Way is Up] is full of self-irony, which is exactly what makes it such an exhilarating read… a fizzy break-up novel.” — Johanna Suominen, Savon Sanomat newspaper

“Marja Kangas’ novel, The Only Way Is Up, tells the story of a woman whose husband unexpectedly demands a divorce. Despite the book’s difficult subject matter, it’s as light read and—in the end—the woman realises that life really does go on.” — Marja-Terttu Yli-Sirniö, Viva magazine

“A humorous, insightful—even surprising—story of one woman’s predicament in the relationship jungle.” — WSOY fiction competition panel

“Refreshing, boozy entertainment which reads fluently and even makes you laugh; a good debut novel. The parts about the theatre world were especially amusing: is this what artistry is really like?!” — Kultturi kukoistaa literary blog

“… insightful, light, and really fun!” — Kirsin Book Club literary blog

“I haven’t read a book as funny as Marja Kangas’s debut THE ONLY WAY IS UP for a long time… It’s a book that’ll make you laugh and marvel simultaneously at what is a pretty relatable story… I particularly liked the book’s wide array of characters. Sirkku’s friends Alma and Margaretha are funny and relatable… and her ex-mother-in-law is about as ‘mother-in-law’ as they come!… This is book is the best possible summer reading!” Kultuurelli Matkalaukussa literary blog