It’s the start of a luminous Scandinavian summer, and Elsa, the matriarch of an eminent Helsinki family, is dying.
Her family members gather around to support her, but their hidden struggles come, too. There’s Elsa’s granddaughter Anna, lost in her own world and concealing an unhappy affair that will not heal; Martti, Elsa’s loving husband, whose dreams are haunted by the spectre of another woman; and Elsa’s adult daughter Eleonoora, anxiously trying to deal with her mother’s illness. As Elsa’s existence becomes more fragile, the anchors of Eleonoora’s childhood memories begin to slip away, and the foundations upon which the family has built its life for forty years start to shift.
One afternoon, Anna discovers a secret that goes to the very heart of her family — a secret that takes her back to the restlessness and change of the 1960s, a Europe in the throes of a social revolution, and a stranger named Eeva who entered her family’s lives, changing them forever.
As Eeva’s story unfolds, Anna discovers a young woman who mirrors herself in many ways, and whose life illustrates both the danger of giving oneself up too completely to love and the necessity of doing so in order to truly live.
Enthralling and beautifully drawn, True charts the experiences of three generations as they try to come to terms with a memory long repressed, and explores the mercy and tenderness that can come from a lie. Ultimately it asks: when we can never really know the people we love, how do we try to be true?
In Pulkkinen s second novel, her first to be translated into English, the Finnish author tells the story of Elsa, a well-known child psychologist; her husband, Martti, a painter; their doctor daughter Elenoora; and Anna and Maria, their 20-something granddaughters. All have assembled around Elsa as she succumbs to cancer. Anna and her grandmother have always been kindred spirits, often playing dress up and picnicking in the park, and it s Anna s choice of outfit for one of these outings that opens a window into a forgotten chapter of Martti and Elsa s past. The frock that Anna plucks from the closet belongs not to Elsa but to Eeva, Elenoora s former nanny, with whom Martti had an ongoing affair during Elsa s scholarly trips. While Anna obsesses over her grandparents past, seeing in it an alternate life that she so longs for, having to face her father s betrayal makes Elenoora question everything. Pulkkinen has a fine eye for description and infuses her characters with longing, but the story is familiar: desire for a different life than the one we ve chosen. An eloquent family saga that falls short of revelation.