Booklist Reviews 2019 May #1
*Starred Review* The compelling personification of the labor activism once perceived as an alien Bolshevik threat by many Americans, Aino Koski stands out as a courageous female labor organizer in Marlantes' compelling new family saga. An immigrant who has fled a czarist-oppressed Finland with two brothers, Aino struggles to unionize the lumberjacks of the Pacific Northwest to protect them against the exploitation of ruthless lumber companies backed by callous courts and brutal police. Readers will feel both Aino's political passion and her emotional heartbreak as her activism strains her ties to her ethnic community, husband, and daughter. And they will recognize how Aino's travails fit within a larger social tapestry, as Marlantes weaves those travails into the turbulent lives of Ilmari and Matti, Aino's brothers, who likewise endure physical and emotional trauma in their new home, finding lethal peril behind the beauty of its towering trees and swift rivers, encountering tawdry betrayals behind its lofty constitutional ideals. Marlantes poignantly depicts the intimacies of personal dramas that echo the twentieth century's unprecedented political storms and yet in surprising ways reprise Finland's oldest mythologies. Finally, it is Aino—tested in the novel's climax by the exposure of long-hidden and horrifying secrets—who carries the reader to a profoundly humanizing conclusion. An unforgettable novel. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2019 February #1
Following the eye-catching debut novel Matterhorn and the nonfiction What It Is Like To Go to War, both New York Times best sellers, Marlantes shifts his attention from the Vietnam War to the early 1900s, when the three Koski siblings flee Finland to escape the heavy hand of imperial Russia. Brothers Ilmari and Matti get work as loggers along Washington's grand Columbia River, while their sister, Aino, helps organize the industry's first union. For this family, creating new lives while upholding tradition is a balancing act akin to rolling a huge log down the river. A welcome publication, with Matterhorn published nearly a decade ago.
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
LJ Reviews 2019 May
Marlantes's debut, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, a story heavily influenced by the author's experience as a marine, received critical praise for its unblinking portrayal of innocence, patriotism, and violence. Here, Marlantes pushes deep into his family's past to create a generational tale about Finnish immigrants, American capitalism, and forgotten heroes. Inspired by the 19th-century epic poem The Kalevala and Marlantes's own family history, the narrative is set in 1900s America. Fleeing from Finland to Washington State, the Koski siblings find work in the nascent logging industry of the Pacific Northwest. Youngest daughter Aino watches her brothers and colleagues lose their limbs, health, and wages as the need for timber outpaces a concern for human capital. Swept up in the energy of the emerging labor union movement, Aino matures into a fiery advocate for organized labor and the dignity of the human spirit. However, an egalitarian ideology pits her against America's cresting wave of industrialization and its consolidation of power and wealth. Though the characters feel real, this angle can make them seem like mouthpieces for political movements at times. VERDICT An admirable work, this monomyth is dense (maybe sometimes too dense) with Marlantes's gift for lyricism and evocative language. [See Prepub Alert, 1/14/19.]—Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2019 May #1
Inspired by family history, Marlantes (Matterhorn) offers a sprawling, painstakingly realistic novel about Finnish immigrants in the Pacific Northwest during the first half of the 20th century. The saga begins in 1891 Russian-occupied Finland, when tenant farmers Maíjalíisa and Tapio Koski lose three of their six children to cholera. Six years later, their oldest surviving son, Ilmari, now 18, departs for America. By 1903, he owns a farm and blacksmith shop on Washington's Deep River and dreams of building a church. Brother Matti joins him, and soon Matti is working as a logger and dreaming of starting his own company. Seventeen-year-old sister Aino arrives last, fleeing Finland after being tortured for revolutionary activity. In America, she campaigns for the Industrial Workers of the World. During the 1920s, as IWW activity is suppressed, Aino is separated from her family and even spends time in a Chicago jail. Meanwhile, through the Depression, the Koski siblings put considerable energy into a variety of enterprises including Sampo Manufacturing (timber) and Scandinavia's Best (salmon). Their perseverance despite hard times and conflicts exemplifies Finnish "sisu," a combination of determination, courage, tenacity, and endurance. Vasutäti the Chinookan basket-weaver/healer, Aksel the fisherman/bootlegger, and Louhi the whorehouse/saloon financier, provide assistance. Marlantes's epic is packed with intriguing detail about Finnish culture, Northwest landscapes, and 20th-century American history, making for a vivid immigrant family chronicle. (July)
Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.