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Book: A Year in South Karelia

July 25, 2012

I’ve found my incarnation in South Karelia – or my long-lost brother. Great minds think alike! 🙂

In terms of our age in Finland years, Michael Child and I are about the same age, nearly 14, “born” in 1998. His history and how he ended up in Finland is different than mine, but since we’ve been here, we’ve seen and observed a lot of the same things. One thing is for sure, we’ve both taken a liking to living here. We have a good days and bad days, but for the most part it’s good and everything is an opportunity to learn.

Michael brings South Karelia’s people and places to life in his year-long sojourn around the region. He often visits places that he wants to return to, musing that one can visit places but never really get to know them.

I often found myself nodding my head knowingly in agreement with many of the things he writes about, like losing little bits of his Canadian being and not knowing who plays for Team Canada in ice hockey.

Michael writes about the mass hysteria that surrounds the stores the day before a national holiday. I can relate, and that is why I send the Mr. out TWO days before said holiday…

He tells us a lot about his newly adopted hometown of Imatra. I have only ever driven through Imatra, so I think I now have to include it on my travels and maybe even crash Michael’s house for some good old Canadian living in Finland chit chat.

I couldn’t help but smile as I read this book as Michael has done a good job of giving his readers a good look at South Karelia. I’d definitely make him my tour guide since I bet a lot has happened in South Karelia since he did the writing for this back in 2009.

He’s beaten me to it on a few topics like the entry on Rites of passage detailing life events in Finland and the entry on the “parking puck.” I did get a good giggle out of the Finnish “Non-smile”, it’s a familiar facet of my life too, though I think I got the Mr. to break the habit. I think I have bugged him enough that when the camera comes out, he almost instantly breaks into a smile. I am also familiar with the taboo feelings of taking pictures at a funeral, even though that is commonplace here.

Overall this is an excellent read, Michael has compiled pieces of life in Finland in short bits that are perfect for reading on the bus or cramming in as you’re waiting in line. You can finish an entry and won’t be left hanging, other than wondering what he might talk about next.

A Year in South Karelia is definitely good for a few laughs. Michael admits his embarrassing problems with Finnish bathrooms culminating in an incident that left me in tears because I was laughing so hard. You’ll have to read it for yourself to find out! I also found his musings about Hallowe’en interesting, in that the celebration is such a mystery to Finns he could be lazy and leave his decorations out for the whole winter and no one would be the wiser.

Questions remain – did he eventually try making the kovaohraleipä he wrote about.

Has he ever gotten around to entering the Old Geezer World Championships that he told us about? Was his wife willing to be a part of Team Canada?

The biggest weakness in this book is the black and white photography. Unfortunately Michael’s richly penned words are sometimes let down by the photos that accompany them.

In a follow-up by e-mail, Michael mentioned that he does not write a blog anymore, but is still writing in hopes of getting enough material together for another book. He also has lived in Finland long enough that he could apply for Finnish citizenship, but said he hasn’t felt the need to go down that road. And as for a return to Canada, we share the same sentiment in spite of all of the questions that come our way. No, a return to Canada is not in the cards. Quite simply Finland is the place to be.

A Year in South Karelia is published by Lulu and is available on or on Amazon.

A Year in South Karelia (2011, 208 pages)
ISBN-10: 1447835611
ISBN-13: 978-1447835615

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2012 1:39 pm

    “No, a return to Canada is not in the cards. Quite simply Finland is the place to be.”…Those words hit me quite hard when I read them. I had to make the same decision concerning the USA (left when I was in my early twenties) about 2 weeks ago when I had to go back for my Grandmothers funeral. I looked around and did some soul searching for a couple of days: could not identify the place anymore or my friends or the players on the NY Yankees line-up. That life is past now. Finland is the place to be.


  1. 4 Finland Links (and 1 Italian Link) | Embrace Life. Be Inspired. In Finland.

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