[review] Nadja Sumanen: Rambo

Sumanen, Nadja9789511292029-jpg_jsessionido5hoc0op98p4k3nd4evmcfx2
Rambo
Otava 2015
ISBN 978-951-1-29202-9

Nadja Sumanen won the Otava’s young people novel contest and soon after that the Finlandia Junior, the most prestigious children’s and young people’s literature award in Finland. Rambo will also be seen on the stage in the Finnish National Theatre. Quite an achievement for a previously unpublished author!

Rambo is a young boy living with his mother. The mother is restless, going from relationship to relationship and battling with mental health problems. Because Rambo knows the boyfriends are unlikely to stay around for too long, he does not even bother to try to get to know them. The latest boyfriend, Rotta, has been around for over a year but this has not changed Rambo’s mom’s behaviour. She is a living ghost, wandering around the apartment or just lying in bed like a corpse.

Rambo could not be more surprised when his mom and Rotta declare that they are going spend their holiday in a summer cabin. Off they go, and at the summer cabin they meet Rotta’s parents, Erkki and Annikki. Rambo immediately notices some schism between Rotta and Erkki but Annikki welcomes all of them warmly. Annikki also starts to take care of Rambo after she realises how badly neglected the boy is.

During their stay, Rambo’s mom’s condition deteriorates, reaching the point where Rotta is forced to take her to the hospital. Rambo is allowed to stay with Erkki and Annikki and their granddaughter, Liina, who treats Rambo badly until they both realise the similarity of their situations. Although Liina has both of her parents and lots of money, she feels lonely because her parents are constantly arguing and avoiding each other.

Rambo tries to maintain a balance between situations that are solved “too easily” and the forces that rip people’s worlds apart. On the other hand, lightness comes to the fore in situations where the mood could otherwise be too heavy. And you need to remember that sometimes life only starts to roll on its own pace after all the building blocks are in their right places and you give it a chance to take you forward.

My favourite characters in the book were Erkki and Annikki. Annikki is non-judgmental and expands the meaning of family as soon as she encounters a boy in need of a stable family. Erkki, the grumpy old man, sees something similar in himself and Rambo and starts to guide him in life. Sometimes words are unnecessary and simply a touch or even mere silence can be all that it takes to communicate comfort and acceptance. This book, the author’s first, shows a rare own voice and the kind of maturity some authors spend a long time searching for. Maybe that is the reason why this book is THE book people are talking about.

Suvi Oksanen

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