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303 pages

The Promised Land


A wildly beautiful, lyrical novel about a young boy’s survival and yearning for an absent mother in Reconstruction-era Finland. Shortlisted for the Torchbearer Prize 2023.

Kaarlo and his anarchist grandmother live alone in a flea-ridden, tumbledown house on a small island in the Finnish archipelago. According to his grandmother, Kaarlo’s mother is waiting for him in far away America, and Kaarlo plans to go there one day.

Juhani Brander’s first novel is about the power and shame of living in poverty, class, and the fragile relationship between man and nature. Brander writes sensitively about an isolated island community, its distinctive inhabitants, dreams that transcend adversity, and stigmatised women who have been cruelly forgotten by history. The novel grows into a poetic ballad about the sea, a seal, and a boy in a small rowing boat trying to row across the ocean towards a denouement reminiscent of Moby Dick.

Brander received widespread and unanimous praise from literary critics for this, his first work of longform fiction, a work that showcases his articulate, lush language and fearlessness of the darker aspects of humanity. With tinges of humour and magical realism that leaven, the novel also has echoes of great Finnish modernist Volter Kilpi’s Archipelago series.


Finnish Edition
Sample Translation
Author Letter

Prizes & nominations

2024, shortlisted for the Eeva Joenpelto Prize)
2023, shortlisted for the Finnish Literary Export Prize (Tulenkantaja Prize, the ‘Torch-Bearer Prize’)


‘Juhani Brander’s distinctive novel THE PROMISED LAND, set in the post-war Turku archipelago, is linguistically polished, lyrical and, in places, exhilaratingly poignant. The events, peering into magical realism, are touchingly and believably described from the perspective of a young boy raised by a grandmother. The islanders’ idiosyncratic community and its ultimate ethos of survival is wonderfully portrayed in an airy dialogue of fact and fiction. A poignant, evocative work that will stay with you in your dreams.’ — Eeva Joenpelto Prize jury

‘Desolate and beautiful.’ — Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

‘A sensitive and powerful novel about marginalization that elevates the author into the leading A class. ***** — Aamulehti

‘Impressive. […} Brander’s Amerikka had this critic holding back the tears. All the elements work well together in this refreshing novel.’ — Turun Sanomat newspaper

‘One of those novels that makes literature worth reading.’ — Keskisuomalainen newspaper

‘Powerful and eloquent.’ — Suomen Kuvalehti magazine

‘A tremendous linguistic experience in the midst of grief. […] Language proves more powerful than any weapon.’ — Kirjallisuustoimittaja

‘A sensitive and powerful story about exclusion and loneliness – but also about nature, dreams, and beauty in the details.’ — Rantalakeus newspaper