We Sinners: A Novel (Paperback)
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
"A resonant and magical work of imagination."—Chicago Tribune
Winner of the Whiting Writers' Award
In this stunning, highly acclaimed debut novel, Hanna Pylväinen's We Sinners introduces us to an unforgettable family, bound together and torn apart by their intense religious devotion. Despite the ways all eleven of the Rovaniemis have built their lives around the conservative religion's rigid guidelines—music, television, makeup, and even school dances are strictly prohibited—their eventual places in the wider world and their paths to get there could not be more different, or more painful to each other. The children who reject the church learn that freedom comes at an almost unbearable cost, and those who stay struggle daily with the temptations of modern culture. Wholly absorbing and unflinching in its emotional honesty, We Sinners shows us how far we will go for faith and for each other, and the consequences when love—or God—is not enough.
About the Author
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 the author of the book We Sinners and is from suburban Detroit.
“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
“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.” —Chicago Tribune
“A spare, quietly devastating novel.” —The Boston Globe
“Captivating...The beauty of We Sinners lies in its extraordinary ordinariness.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“Hanna Pylväinen's We Sinners is not only beautiful and heartbreaking, it is important--for what it says about faith, family, and for the humane light it sheds on the cultural fissures that affect every American. This is a book that reminds the reader, on every page, of the uniquely illuminating power of fiction.” —Meghan O'Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye
“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