Is Jääskeläinen a writer writing about writers writing? In some ways, yes, but that would just be the tip of the iceberg in this irresistible, playful and, at times, weird and dark story.
The town of Rabbit Back in rural Finland is not your average hick town. It is home to the enigmatic Laura White, creator of the Creatureville series of children’s books, from which ubiquitous replicas of her fictional characters creepily inhabit every nook and cranny in the town. White also established the Rabbit Back Literature Society, a group of ten precocious children recruited and trained by White to be great writers. After the mysterious disappearance of the Society’s most promising and brilliant member, the group, twenty years later, is made up of nine, successful, middle-aged writers who, for some uncanny reason, avoid each other at all costs.
Ella Milana, a substitute Finnish language and literature teacher has a short story published in Rabbit Tracks, called “The Skeleton Sat in the Cave, Silently Smoking Cigarettes.” After this, she is received, to everyone’s surprise, as the much-anticipated tenth member of the Society. At her welcome party, Laura White strangely disappears off the face of the Earth in a literal whirlwind of snow. This sets Ella off on a path of investigation to find answers to such questions as: What happened to Laura White? What’s with the inexplicable virus altering the storylines of the town’s library books? What really happened to Ella’s predecessor? What killed Ella’s father? and What’s with literally all of the town’s dogs besieging fellow member, Martii’s, house?
This is a wonderful romp of a book that blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Jääskeläinen doesn’t explain everything, but that’s not how this novel works: you’ll still come away feeling completely satisfied at having read a witty, original, totally crazy story.
Rosemary Melville is a Library Technician for the Thunder Bay Public Library
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