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Notes for the Aurora Society

Jim O'Donnell (Author)

ISBN: 0-7414-5102-6 ©2009
Price: $18.95
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 354 pages
Category/Subject: TRAVEL / Europe / Scandinavia

Walk 1500 miles through Finland. From the islands of the Baltic to the Arctic coast, this work of travel literature looks at the Finnish people through their connection to the natural world.

Notes for the Aurora Society is the story of a 1500-mile walk through Finland. Leaving from the southernmost point of Finland, the author crossed the Finnish countryside interviewing Finns about their relationship to nature and exploring the land and the history that made modern Finland. His journey deposited him, five-months later, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Blending a naturalist’s ecosystem knowledge with an anthropologist’s ability to elicit unique insight into the process of culture, this work of travel literature is the first book to look at the Finnish people through their connection to the natural world.

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Customer Reviews

  An interesting and informative view of modern Finland , 03/04/2009
Reviewer: Rachel P
One of my favorite things about this compelling narrative (describing one man's lone journey across modern Finland), is that the author, Jim O'Donnell, has made such an investment in his adopted (for the moment) country. He seems to care very deeply for the idea of "wilderness" and is aware of the realities of protecting nature when it co-exists so closely with humans. Through his intensive five-month, 1500 mile walk across Finland, O'Donnell attempts to understand the Finn's relationship to nature, their dedication(and sometimes naivete') in preserving it, and why it is such an important piece of their culture, past and present. His perseverance in the journey, and his anecdotal style of presenting the information he collects along the way, make for an interesting read that not only made me laugh alot, but absolutely opened my eyes to how we treat our environment, both here in the US and abroad. I completely recommend this book for anyone who has ever made a personal quest, whether literally or spiritually, to further explore a subject that you were passionate about............

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  trusting a writer , 03/28/2009
Reviewer: Laura P
Whenever I pick up a book of nonfiction, I need to know whether or not I trust the writer--if I trust him to tell me of the world as it is, rather than as how he wishes it to be. I loved this book precisely because I could follow O'Donnell on his journey to a place I've never visited and trust him completely to show me Finland as he truly experienced it. The bonus is that I learned as much about how we North Americans perceive the natural world as I did about Finland.

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  A Unique view of finland , 06/27/2010
Reviewer: Glenn Cheney
It isn’t every day somebody walks the length of Finland, south to north, 1,500 miles in all. in fact, it isn’t even every day that somebody remembers that Finland’s there. So when somebody actually takes that hike, talking to people all the way, the event deserves a good book. Jim O’Donnell has taken the hike and written the book, and as a rarity in this world, the book is something to treasure. At some distant time in the future when somebody wants to know what Finland was like at the turn of the 21t century, Jim O’Donnell’s Notes for the Aurora Society is where they will look. O’Donnell carried a heavy pack and a good ploy. Every time he met somebody, he stopped to talk, and his standard question was about how Finns relate to nature. He talked with so many people at such length that it’s amazing that he managed to make it all the way to Nuorgum, the northernmost point of the European Union, a nice spot for a dip in the Arctic Sea. Summarize innumerable answers to his single question, some Fins are ardently protective of their environment, and some see it as something to exploit for financial purpose or at least for purposes of in natura sex and the consumption of enough beer to drive away the nightmare of interminable winter dark. Women, it seemed, were more likely to see nature as needing mothering, while men were more more likely to seek happiness in booze. Working your way through Notes can be as exhausting as the hike it portrays, but that’s a good thing. The book is a wealth of detail, and even though no two days are alike, sometimes several days seem a lot alike. But then a new day dawns, and O’Donnell plunges into a forest or put of a forest, and there he finds somebody studying an ecosystem or revving up a quad or ignoring a garden or tucking into a bender or saying something like “The Finnish spring is like a man’s sexuality.” He gets into discussions on the nature and definition of true capital-W Wilderness, the nature and definition of Finnishity (my word, not his), the questionable value of snowmobiles, the history of the Russian-Finnish relationship, and so much more. Much to his credit, O’Donnell doesn’t waste many words telling the reader how sore his feet were or how hungry he got. Yes, there’s some of that, but it’s mostly a book of anecdotes and conversations. It isn’t about a hike. It’s about people and a culture. I must admit that back when I never gave Finland a second thought, I pictured the place as populated by Laps, reindeer, and beautiful blondes, where everyone lives in steamy cabins heated by burning pine, living off polar bear gizzards and flogging themselves in the sauna. It never occurred to me that the unique culture of the place would necessitate a vocabulary would need such words as snagari, kiuas, raha, motti, loyly, vasta, and eramaa. Sure, everybody speaks a little English, but English doesn’t have words that translate those (except for snagari, which as I would pronounce it, not knowing what to do with the double o’s over the a’s, sounds like a perfect word for a hotdog stand). So if you want to take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been and probably never even bothered to to imagine, Notes for the Aurora Society is your ticket. Settle in for a long trudge from sauna to sagari, from Helsinki to a chilly sea. I’m betting you’ll be glad you didn’t take the trip yourself but will not regret reading about somebody else doing it. You’ll end up not only seeing a Finland for the first time but your world for the second. Glenn Alan Cheney

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