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Book Review: Finnish Nightmares: An Irreverent Guide to Life’s Awkward Moments
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Finnish Nightmares book cover

Finnish Nightmares
An Irreverent Guide to Life’s Awkward Moments
Hardcover | Kindle
By Karoliina Korhonen
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Release date: August 20, 2019

Finnish comic strip character Matti gets an American debut with Finnish Nightmares: An Irreverent Guide to Life’s Awkward Moments, a new hardcover collection published by Ten Speed Press.

Matti is described as a “mild-mannered and typical Finn,” and being an American with little knowledge of what the average Finn is like, I’ll just have to take creator Karoliina Korhonen‘s word for it. But going through these cartoon strips that depict Matti’s every day life, it seems like his experiences are not exclusive to native Finns. His fears of awkward social gatherings, hectic commutes, and running out of coffee have global resonance.

The book does open with expressly Finnish situations, but once Matt interacts with neighbors, co-workers, and salespeople, it becomes what we can all relate to. Anything that’s specific to Finnish or Nordic culture has an asterisk with an explanation in small type at the bottom and includes an English translation if necessary.

If you’re an introvert or socially awkward or even if you’re someone who can fake NOT being those things, you will relate to Matti’s thoughts about nosy neighbors, late public transit, and personal space being invaded.

I especially laughed pretty hard with the cartoons dealing with sitting next to fellow commuters on the bus and the ones about being hungry at a gathering but not wanting to be the first person to take food.

But regardless of its title, this collection is not all nightmares. There is a glimmer of hope with the “Finnish Daydreams” section. Again, it’s something we all can relate to, like getting something for free no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it is. (The author does, though, explain the freebie situation as it pertains to Finns.)

Korhonen’s adorable clips are mainly black-and-white line art cartoons — some of which also contain a hint of color — that look like they belong held up by a magnet to the refrigerator or push-pinned up on a work cubicle bulletin board for others to enjoy. Not to mention, as a page-a-day calendar. (Matti’s has had many more adventures than the ones depicted in this book, some of which are available in calendar form on Korhonen’s blog.) And in today’s world, these illustrations are like humorous memes people share on social media.

With 96 pages filled with 67 illustrations, Finnish Nightmares is a quick read that will leave you laughing and nodding in agreement. Because of that, this book would also make a great gift this holiday season. At some point in our lives, we were all Matti and some of us still are.

From awkward interactions on public transportation to avoiding small talk with salespeople, introverts from all over the world will find something to love in this comic sensation from Finland.

Mild-mannered protagonist Matti is a typical Finn who appreciates peace, quiet, and personal space–but things do not always go according to his wishes. Finnish Nightmares is an illustrated collection of his and many people’s worst fears when it comes to social interactions. Divided into sections on dealing with neighbors, going shopping, sharing public spaces, tense dining situations, and more, there is a comic for every squeamish scenario, from having to sing your own praises in a job interview, to being unable to leave your apartment because a neighbor is in the hallway. A fascinating look at Nordic culture, globe trotters and armchair travelers alike will enjoy this insider’s glimpse into the local life and habits of Finland. With a charming and quirky universality, there is an awkward and laughable situation that everyone can relate to in Finnish Nightmares.

Hardcover • 96 pages • 67 illustrations • 7 x 5 inches

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