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We Sinners

A Novel

Hanna Pylväinen

Henry Holt and Co.

This stunning debut novel—drawn from the author's own life experience—tells the moving story of a family of eleven in the American Midwest, bound together and torn apart by their faith

The Rovaniemis and their nine children belong to a deeply traditional church (no drinking, no dancing, no TV) in modern-day Michigan. A normal family in many ways, the Rovaniemis struggle with sibling rivalry, parental expectations, and forming their own unique identities in such a large family. But when two of the children venture from the faith, the family fragments and a haunting question emerges: Do we believe for ourselves, or for each other? Each chapter is told from the distinctive point of view of a different Rovaniemi, drawing a nuanced, kaleidoscopic portrait of this unconventional family. The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at the almost unbearable price of their close family ties, and those who stay struggle daily with the challenges of resisting the temptations of modern culture. With precision and potent detail, We Sinners follows each character on their journey of doubt, self-knowledge, acceptance, and, ultimately, survival.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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POX She should have told him already about the church but she hadn’t. The warnings were all there—he could name all of her siblings, and he looked at her too deliberately, and when he hugged her she was caught too long against his chest. Every morning she decided she would tell him, but every afternoon it was too tempting to go one more day, one more minute where he found a way to hold her fingers as she passed him a note. But now she knew he was going to ruin it all and ask her to the dance, she could feel it—she avoided him carefully but fussed with her hair, nearly sick
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REVIEWS

Praise for We Sinners

"We Sinners is remarkably funny for a book about a deeply religious family grappling with loss of faith. . . It's impossible not to like these characters, so beautifully drawn, and so very loving to one another." --Los Angeles Times

"[A] nuanced portrait of an unnuanced world." —The New York Times

"Captivating . . . The beauty of We Sinners lies in its extraordinary ordinariness." —Washington Independent Review of Books

"[A] spare, quietly devastating novel." —The Boston Globe

"In some ways, the Rovaniemi family is like ordinary American families, with sibling rivalries, birth order issues and parental expectations. But the questions about faith—how it binds the family together but also mutates and divides it—elevate it beyond the confines of the traditional domestic novel and into a resonant and magical work of imagination."—The Chicago Tribune

"A beautiful, understated novel. [Pylväinen] tells a sophisticated, precise story about the nature and need for rebellion, set off against our need to belong. We Sinners hums with rare respect for religious outsiders." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"In We Sinners, Pylvainen deftly explores this dance between oppression and liberation, between belief and unbelief, and shows the gray areas. These are not polarities but gradations of human experience. We all move in and out of various communities and belief systems, searching for love and acceptance. Often we search for forgiveness. This novel shows that sometimes it’s found in strange places." —The Wichita Eagle

"Characters who could be painted in grand strokes as villains or angels are small, fragile, and very human. We Sinners brilliantly, unforgettably reconfigures Tolstoy’s adage about happy and unhappy families: ‘happy and unhappy, every family is.’" —Publishers Weekly, Galley Talk

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Hanna Pylväinen

  • Hanna Pylväinen graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was also a postgraduate Zell Fellow. She is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony residency and a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She is from suburban Detroit.

  • Hanna Pylväinen
    Hanna Pylväinen
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We Sinners

A Novel

Hanna Pylväinen

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Henry Holt and Co.

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