Review: Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto

ChapmanYour Presence is Requested at Suvanto, a Review by Carissa K. Cullum

As summer comes to a quiet end, a new patient by the name of Julia Dey arrives at the front steps of Suvanto, though it’s unclear as to who has sent her. When she’s assigned a room on the top floor of the hospital alongside the other foreign patients – or “up-patients,” as the staff calls them – Julia’s presence creates a bit of a stir. Then again, even the most subtle change can cause upset for those whose lives revolve around steady routines.

While a strict schedule can easily become mundane, Maile Chapman has a way of pulling us in so that we are consumed by the cyclical nature of life at Suvanto: three meals a day, a long walk through the woods or to the lake, the daily interactions of the up-patients. However, if we pay attention to the details as suggested by the narrator, and the obscure omniscient presence that collectively embodies all of Suvanto’s up-patients, we find that the normal routine is often punctuated by some small mishap, such as the first snowfall of winter or a stove that has mysteriously been revived during the night.

Whether it’s the repetition within each day, the Finnish countryside as it slowly evolves into winter, or the death that lingers over a hospital, Suvanto gives off an eerie sense of impending catastrophe. This feeling heightens upon the arrival of Dr. Peter Weber, an American surgeon who has created the Weber stitch for cesarean section patients. Dr. Peter plans to practice this stitch on the women at Suvanto, so that the Finnish doctors may learn how to perform it on their patients. But when Dr. Peter’s first surgical patient is found dead, events escalate violently until two others meet the same untimely fate.

Overall, Chapman’s premier novel, Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto, is both captivating and thrilling through its use of highly descriptive and oftentimes startling imagery, as well as its careful character development. Additionally, Chapman does an excellent job of raising the ethical dilemmas presented by Dr. Peter’s sexist practice in a lighthearted manner without undermining the gravity of the situation. Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto offers the perfect solution to fill lazy autumn days with a bit of suspense.

For more information on Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman, visit: www.graywolfpress.org.

 

Carissa Cullum earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from The University of Tampa in 2013 and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Florida. Although she spends her work days writing about everything from ball bearings to vital sign monitors, she would much rather curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book. Her favorite genres include Latin American and Caribbean fiction, especially short stories.

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