Anger at the senseless cruelty of it all kept her awake at night.
Escaping Russian rule, siblings Ilmari, Matti, and Aino immigrate to America joining other Finns in the hopes that they will find the perfect place to thrive. Ilmari is the first to leave Finland, to avoid being drafted in the Russian army he flees his homeland. In America, Ilmari is a devout man who builds a farm of his own and a blacksmith shop before his brother Matti follows. Helping his brother for a time with the running of things, he must make a life for himself. By Christmas finding work with the sole options being fishing or logging, he choses logging. Felling trees, a job that can crush a man, easy. With no idea how, he swears to himself he will one day have his own company! Last is Aino, seventeen- years old and desperate for work. Already having suffered for her revolutionary beliefs back in Finland, the fire burns just as bright now in America. She isn’t happy to settle as some man’s wife and men want a woman to care for their families not a maid. Marriage is still against everything she believes in, and if she ever marries, she has to feel love, hers is a heart that cannot in good conscience settle. There are more important things to her future, and her socialist desires. Life isn’t easier in America, everything is not golden nor as ‘free’ as she imagined. Instead, they meet with backbreaking, deadly work logging in the forrest of Washington, where workers are nothing better than slaves making money for others (capitalism). A staunch socialist, Aino is well read, and desperate to fight for laborers rights often at the risk of her very life. Conflicted by the expectations of women of the times (have a family, settle down) she’d rather take part in activism, even when love comes calling. Is it better to settle down, safer? She is fed up being a live in servant, did enough of that before, and marriage is much the same too. She works for a time cooking for hundreds of men at a logging camp, Reder Logging. It comes to be the hardest work she has ever known. The reality is often disheartening, even later when she is a wife living in cheap lopsided quarters, it isn’t enough to please her. She must occupy herself with a life full of purpose, helping others. Escaping the unrest of their own country only to land in a place where one must continue to fight for human dignity, America isn’t turning out to be the dream Aino envisioned. Women should know their place, and certainly not be slipping off for meetings threatened by raids! A man who works his fingers to the bone relies on his good wife waiting with a meal, the home clean and comfortable. She’s a feminist, a fighter, a woman who won’t be caged but I admit, she could come off as self-righteous and selfish at times too. Could motherhood settle her?
The men face loggers being killed, the equipment fails, people make mistakes that costs lives and no one is looking out for their safety. It matters to Aino. It is for ‘the common good’ and if she is called a communist, so be it, they must still fight! The powers that be don’t want strikes and of course will threaten those who dare strike with brute force. Naturally she finds herself jailed. The Koski siblings will rage against “slave wages, slave hours, and slave working conditions” and find their future as pioneers logging the vast forest of Washington. They will all search for their identity as they push for early labor rights or material success. From logging camps to fishing for salmon, strikes, Spanish flu, co-ops, the first cars, and captialism. Love and affairs, jail, unrest, starting families, and businesses in the new American dream. There is a lot happening in this novel that because of the historical scope it covers, the stories can sometimes leave the reader meandering. It is a rich, well researched historical fiction about the early days for Finish immigrants in the forrest and mills of Washington. More importantly it is a grim look at the fight for labors rights.
Publication Date: July 2, 2019