A larger- (and funnier) than-life novel about growth, from a master of laconic humour and situation comedy.
It is July 1981, and Charles and Diana are tying the knot. In the back parlour of a house in Western Finland, grandfather is dying. He wants to see the coffin in which he will soon be laid out. The request prompts a fierce argument amongst the family members.
The teenage narrator of the story sets off with his uncle for Turku, to fetch the coffin. His uncle is only ten years older, but he knows how things go in this life. Or how they should go.
Time passes. In October 1994, the same free-spirited uncle extends an invitation to come fishing. The narrator, by now a young father, takes up the offer with great expectations and no little trepidation. There is no fishing to be had, but much more in the way of women, booze and trouble.
In February 2005 the narrator’s divorce papers come through. As he tries to get accustomed to his new single status, he weeps at the message of mercy and moderation declared at the wedding of Charles and Camilla. His uncle, now semi-derelict through drink, calls him up and orders him to pull himself together and stay firm. Over Midsummer, his uncle dies. At the funeral, talking to his son, the narrator realises that he has ten years in which to become like his uncle – or to avoid it.