Starting in Helsinki, Finland, in May 1943 and spanning a period of over fifty years, "The Wooden Chair" tells the story of Leini Ruth Bauman and her relationship with her mother, whom she calls by her first name (Mira) from an early age. Leini is verbally and physically abused by Mira, who has been stuck on her own with a child she never wanted, since Leini's father Robert is away fighting in the War. Leini's mother is like the wooden chair in her childhood kitchen: "Leini wished Mamma would hug her back, but she was stiff and hard, her lap not so nice. Like the wooden chair in the kitchen in Helsinki."
A problem with Leini's eyesight is the beginning of a chain of events that will have tragic consequences and further increase the rift between mother and daughter. Leini takes the first opportunity she can to escape from Mira, but she ends up falling into her mother's self-destructive patterns. When Leini learns of Mira's childhood and why she has become the woman she is, Leini vows to break this destructive cycle. But will she succeed and finally be able to forgive her mother?
The narrative is evocative of the time; the author has an uncanny ability to describe smells, sounds, and textures, making us feel like we are actually there. The prose is beautiful, lyrical, and heart-wrenching, as reflected in the poignancy of Leini's prayer when she is only four years old: "God keep my papi safe. Make me a good girl so Mamma loves me." The book contains some minor editing errors, mainly vocabulary use. It is a bit repetitive in places and some scenes are a bit long, but overall this is an extremely well-written book.
I received this book for the purpose of providing an honest review.