'Lepakot ovat minusta ihmeellisiä. Astrid, elämäni rakkaus, sytytti minussa palon niitä kohtaan. Astrid sytytti minussa lukuisia liekkejä, ja vaikka maailma hänen jälkeensä sammutti niistä useimmat, rakkaus lepakoihin jäi.'
'I find bats wonderful. Astrid, the love of my life, awakened in me a fire for them. Astrid lit in me multiple flames, and even though the world after her put out most of them, the love for bats remained.'
Mum got me this book for Christmas and as part of the 'read more Finnish stuff' thing and also because it was really good, I just gobbled it up in front of the fireplace over the course of a couple of days. Really pleasant stuff.
Kaksi ihmistä minuutissa (Two people a minute) is Inkeri Markkula's first novel. It's about many things. It's about malaria, death, love, misery, hopelessness, hope and loss. It's about Alina, a Finnish woman from the north who's lost her spouse and who can't have the life she was supposed to have with her daughter. She's also a researcher, cold facts and different types of malaria and nights spent at the laboratory. She's broken and a little bitter but at the same time she's so much more, and it's very easy to consider her to be a real person.
She meets Lotte, a German doctor who's been working in Thailand for longer than what most people can manage. Lotte wants her to come there and help. Alina takes the offer to leave her broken home but says she'll be back, to see her daughter in three months' time. Lotte is almost more real than Alina, for she too has felt loss, but she's also lived in the village for so long and felt compassion and joy and love. Where Alina is samples and lab coats, Lotte is human beings and emotions.
There's also Kian, a boy who grows too fast even though he grows just like he should. He's young but intelligent and like Lotte, I too wanted to guard him from the cruelty of life. There's Kian little sister Po, who's too young to understand but of course not too young for malaria. It's cruel in how real it is, and I'd love to pretend these things are fiction when they're not. The setting, mostly Thailand, was also very alive and felt real. I wanted to visit even though sometimes I certainly didn't want to.
Malaria is cruel. I've heard this said as a concept, but it never touches you when it's numbers (two people a minute) and not actual people. These people were so well-crafted, they were actual to me. This book, more than any statistic I've ever heard, made me think about it. It raises questions like how do you explain that rich people never have to suffer from this, but it doesn't preach or underline. The author is also a biologist and while she doesn't specialise in malaria (she likes bats though), it provided the book with a certain sense of authenticity. I don't know if she'll continue writing but if she does, I'll certainly continue reading.
The book is split into chapters and the chapters are distinguished from each other by years. The current one is 2012, but it also often goes to 2008, 2003 and even 1994. These chapters are sprinkled in between the present moment like little treats, and they're woven into the story so carefully that I never really felt like I was reading a flashback. It provided the characters with backstory that was much appreciated, and I took them with pleasure.
The shortfall of this book is that it's poetic. It's poetic and beautiful and raw, but sometimes it leaves a little too much to be guessed. I wanted a few more answers and a few less questions, especially towards the end when I was starting to realise there wasn't much more space for hints. The ending also left me a little cold, because I did not know what was going on and not in a pretty, poetic way. Rather, in a "I'll never see this person again and this is the last thing they tell me?" sort of way. There's so many questions, and the last chapter of the book basically focused on the few things I actually didn't care about.
Altogether, Kaksi ihmistä minuutissa was very good. As a first work especially, it was extremely well made. It wasn't perfect, but for a couple of days I lived it. I bothered my boyfriend with my thoughts and ranted and quoted and suffered and enjoyed. I'd recommend it even with its few faults. Not sure if mum will like it but I'll try to convince her anyway.
'Metsä huokaa, me hengitämme sen huokaukset. Ajattelen, että malarialla on kovin kaunis koti.'
'The forest sighs, we breathe its sighs. I think about how malaria has a very beautiful home.'