Antti Hurskainen: A Wooden Prayer

A man of faith chooses mercy and the consequences are merciless. The novel has been nominated for the Finlandia Prize, the Runeberg Prize, the Savonia Award and the Torch-bearer Prize.

Author: Antti Hurskainen
Finnish original: Suntio
Publisher: Siltala, 2023
Genre: literary fiction
Number of pages:  282 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample, English synopsis

Rights sold: Danish, Jensen & Dalgaard; Hungarian, Polar

Turtola works as a verger in a small congregation in the countryside. He spends his days sawing wood, raking the churchyard, praying, and taking his five-year-old daughter Monika to the nursery.

Sirén, the vicar, is getting more and more dependent on alcohol whilst trying to write his doctorate and tolerate God’s silence. The two have topics to talk about: the director Ingmar Bergman, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arson in Kiihtelysvaara’s church, public displays of apology and the comedy of the grim reaper.

Someone has upturned 33 stones in the graveyard. Monika’s brain is being examined; her father is building a bed. A crime is followed by a punishment and thirteen letters. Not many prisoners are let out to swim, but there will be enough crispbread for everyone.

A Wooden Prayer is a novel that understands life’s enormous questions. The tale of father and daughter is also a story of guilt, selfishness, faith, mercy and great love.

“The novel is an exceptionally passionate story about the steadfast faith of a person that radiates into their everyday actions. Hurskainen’s language is as sharp as the main
character’s thinking.”
– Finlandia Prize jury

“A Wooden Prayer is a harsh novel that has little regard for curling into an armchair.”
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

“Hurskainen has written a catechism for our time.”
– literature magazine

About the author:
Antti Hurskainen