Monday, September 26, 2011

Of grownups and children

29. Karkkipäivä by Markus Nummi ("Candy Day")

(Candy day is a very Finnish concept: kids have one day in the week when they can eat candy, and thus candy is only a special treat--not an everyday indulgence. Attitudes toward this practice vary from support in teaching children that they should not have access to unhealthy food constantly, whereas the opposing view is that candy day practice makes candy a prohibited item, and might create later adults who console themselves with candy--or any prohibited items from their youth.)

The About:
Tomi is a small child with vivid imagination. His alter ego, a superhero-like character, wants to save the princess in the window across from his home. Sometimes the princess appears, sometimes the room remains dark. All Tomi knows is that princess Mirabella is bound by an evil witch and only he can save her now that he is all alone.

Paula is a store layout planner, which is a perfect job for her as her entire life is completely controlled and planned: she needs everything to be filmed for evidence, so she keeps a personal video blog while her daughter is grounded for shoplifting. Or maybe it was Paula who shoplifted? Small details! 

Author and screenwriter Ari lives in the same block. He tries to pull a story together for TV executives but his characters remain flat. While his wife and children are on holiday, Ari is followed home by a small, dirty boy. Ari has reasons to suspect that this boy is a victim of abuse, but when he calls the social workers he manages to make himself sound like the prime suspect with his story about a boy with a superhero name and a captive princess. 

Social worker Katri is working on her presentation on the past and future of social services for children, even when she is not at the computer. Ari's phone call makes her go back in time to a case that was especially painful for her. Should her presentation include notes on personal regrets and recurring nightmares? 

In the first chapter, Ari asks his wife to read his new book, which is about the events of that fateful day when Tomi followed him home. Leena agrees that the story is great, and so we begin to read the novel. It's meta-fiction time!

It is obvious that Nummi has, as he points out in the notes, researched child welfare services for his novel--some cases mentioned in the novel have even been borrowed from actual reports. Still, the story's criticism is not, as one would expect, aimed at child social services and its inadequate handling of cases, but more to the responsibility of individuals in a given community. Some are too eager to report anything they consider even slightly suspicious, thus diverting social worker energies from genuine cases, whereas others shut their eyes and ears from even the most horrifying events. How to find the perfect balance between these two extremes in order to help children on time?

In the novel, wheels begin to roll because of one child, who himself has been abused. Adults around seem clueless but well-intentioned, yet they are not doing much until warning signs are flashing bright red. 

And then there is the princess. As the story progressed and I begun to understand the depth of horror behind her fairy tale it was impossible to stop reading. I needed to find out how the only character who makes no appearance except when others mention her will turn out. 

This story seems to have a happy ending, but just as I let out a sigh of relief I remembered the first chapter where Ari and his wife talk about his novel. I had to leaf back to confirm my suspicions and thus, the book become even more horrifying than it seemed at first glance. A wonderfully crafted story that does not let the reader go, even after the book covers have been closed shut. 


  1. Kiitos Jenni. En olisi varmaankaan tullut lukeneeksi tätä kirjaa jos en olisi täällä törmännyt kirjoitukseesi. Vaikuttava kirja, jää vaivaamaan mieltä pitkäksi aikaa... t. Niina M.

  2. Kiitos kommentista, Niina. Mahtavaa, että pidit kirjasta myös. Ja kyllä: en olisi itsekään tuon kirjan kannen saati nimen perusteella arvannut, miten loistavan karmaiseva tarina sieltä sisältä löytyykään. Onneksi osui silmään HKI-Vantaan kirjakaupassa kun etsin lennolle jotain uudehkoa pokkaria luettavaksi!