Thursday, October 10, 2013

"The Wooden Chair" by Rayne E. Golay

The Wooden Chair
by Rayne E. Golay

The book tour stops at Books Direct today with a guest post from the author, Rayne E. Golay. You can also read my review of The Wooden Chair, the winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award, Florida Writers Association. Make sure you visit each of the tour stops listed below and don't forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win some fantastic prizes. This book tour is brought to you by the fantastic team at Bewitching Book Tours.

Set against the background of the Finno-Russian winter war, this story starts I Helsinki in 1943 and spans over fifty years of Leini Bauman’s life.
As a child, Leini stands ready to do anything to win her mother Mira’s love. This effort costs her the sight in one eye and as a result, causes her to endure bullying from kids her own age. As a teenager, with her Grandpa’s help, she undergoes one more surgery to straighten her eye, but the psychological scar of the events of her childhood remain.
Leini struggles to break free of Mira’s tyranny by leaving her native Helsinki to study psychology at Geneva University. A few years later, married, herself to a wonderful man, about to become a mother, she is determined with her own children not to repeat Mira’s behavior. With the help of a psychiatrist, she labors through the pains of past hurts to become a nurturing and loving mother and wife, as well as a successful professional, as she grows from victim to victor over adversity. Can her efforts lead her to the one thing she needs to discover the most - the ability to forgive her mother?

Helsinki, May 1942

The policewoman stood on the corner of the crowded marketplace, staring at a little girl with long legs and curly toffee blond hair. The child sang a popular German refrain with high-pitched fervor. “Wie einst, Lili Marlene, wie einst, Lili Marlene.” (My Lili of the lamplight, my own Lili Marlene).Suppressing a smile, the policewoman observed the little girl standing with feet slightly apart, hand outstretched to receive what coins the shoppers could afford. An orange cardigan accentuated her long neck and the high cheekbones of her pale face. She kept adjusting black-rimmed glasses that slipped down her nose.
This was a mere child, at the most five years old. Is there no adult accompanying her? The policewoman studied the crowd.
The officer approached the little singer. “Are you here alone?”
A shy smile came and went on the child’s face. Her eyes, dark like bitter chocolate, were wary behind thick glasses that detracted from her prettiness. She nodded, causing her glasses to slide again.
“Where’s your mother?”
She waved in the general direction of the street. “My Mamma’s there.”
The policewoman creased her brow. “Why aren’t you with your mother?”
“Mamma doesn’t want me to be with her.”
That’s odd. “How old are you?”
“I’m … this old” She held up four fingers.
“You’re four years old?”
“Uh-huh. Almost five.”
“Why are you singing in the street? Does your Mamma know you’re begging?”
The girl shook her head vigorously, shoulder length curls dancing. “I don’t beg.” She stamped her foot. “My Mamma says it’s bad to beg. I’m not bad. I sing so I get money to take the yellow tram home.”
She speaks Finnish with a slight accent, the vowels not so open. Her mother tongue is probably Swedish. She looked into the girl’s palm. It contained two one-penny copper coins. Poor kid, she’s not going far on so little money.
“Where do you live, little girl?”
“There.” Again she waived a tiny hand toward the city center. “At the end of the yellow tram line.”
“Can you show me where you live if I take you?”
The child raised her shoulders and made a movement with her head, which might have been “yes” or “no.”
What’s your name?”
“Mamma says not to tell strangers.”
“Your Mamma is right.” She tugged at the lapel of her uniform jacket. “I’m a policewoman, so you can tell me.
“I’m Leini.”
“Leini? That’s a pretty name.” The policewoman looked around at the small group of people drawn close by the interaction. “What’s your family name…? Your second name?” she added, in case Leini didn’t understand “family name.”
The girl looked at her from under her brow, mistrust in those dark eyes. She shook her head while she played with a strand of hair, twirling it between forefinger and middle finger.
The policewoman smiled. “My name is Tuula Heinonen.” Perhaps this will help. “Now you know mine.” She cocked her head to the side. “Please tell me yours.”
A fleeting smile crossed the child’s lips, and she held out her hand to shake. “I’m Leini Ruth Bauman.”
Tuula took the slim hand and held it in her own. She looked into the crowd, hoping to spot the mother.
“I have an idea,” Tuula said, pointing at a phone booth across the market square. “Let’s have a look in the phone book to see if I can find your address, so I can take you home.”
Leini gazed at her with eyes too serious for a small child. Making up her mind, she stuck her hand in Tuula’s. “Let’s.”
Adjusting her pace to Leini’s, Tuula pushed through the throng of people. Her ears caught snippets of conversations from the cacophony of Swedish, Finnish and the occasional word in Russian, mingled in with an organ grinder’s tune. She glanced at the crowd, mainly women and children, here and there an elderly man or a very young boy among them. Every able-bodied man was now defending Finland against the Russian army.
Holding the door for Leini, Tuula followed her inside the booth. “Here’s the book.” She glanced at the girl’s upturned face. “Now, let’s see. Bal, Bar, Bas. Ah, here.” She kept talking to reassure Leini. “Hmm. There are several Baumans.” Tuula caressed Leini’s head, the hair silky under her hand. “What’s your father’s name?”
Tuula laughed low in her throat. Have to try something else. “Well, there’s no ‘Papi’ listed. Does he have another name?”
“No, just Papi.”
“What’s your mother’s name?”
“Mamma Mira.”
“Good girl.” She ran her finger down the column of Baumans …. Herman, Markus, Oskar, Pertti. “There! I found it—Robert and Mira.” She gazed at Leini. “Does it sound right?”
“Uh-huh, Papi Robert and Mamma Mira.”


As the doorbell rang, Mira’s brow her furrowed in several horizontal creases in irritation at being disturbed. She glanced at the meat-and-vegetable soup simmering on the stove. After she turned off the gas and wiped her hands on a towel, she took a deep puff of the cigarette smoldering in an ashtray and crossed the small sitting room to the entry hall. 
Mira sucked air into her lungs at the sight of the child and fought the urge to slam the door. She glared at the woman who clutched the child’s hand. Leaning over Leini, Mira grabbed her arm.
Leini winced and tried to pull away.
“You hopeless number,” Mira hissed. “Where have you been?” 
Leini twisted her arm back and forth. “Mamma, you’re hurting me.”
Letting go of Leini, she turned to the policewoman and made a supreme effort to paste a pleasant look on her face.
“I’m Mira Bauman. Thank you for finding my daughter. She wanders away. Does it often.”
Tuula introduced herself. “Yes, she was alone, singing at the market place. I took it upon myself to bring her home. Your daughter is lovely.”
“You don’t know the half of it. She’s a little monster. In the company of people she’s all right. At home with me she’s quite a handful.”
The look in Tuula’s eyes told Mira that she’d said too much.  Using a more pleasant tone, Mira apologized for Leini’s behavior.
“No trouble. We enjoyed her singing, but she’s much too young to be in the streets on her own.” Smiling at Leini, Tuula bent to touch the child’s cheek with the back of her hand. “There could be a bombardment any minute. Then what would she do? She doesn’t seem to know where she lives. I looked in the phone book for your address.”
“She’d manage. She always does,” Mira said, a slight quaver in her voice. She clasped her hands to keep them from shaking at the thought that, yet again, here was Leini, looking dumb as usual with her mouth half open, those horrid glasses magnifying her eyes. Her beseeching gaze and stooping shoulders only infuriated Mira more.


By Lynda Dickson
Starting in Helsinki, Finland, in May 1943 and spanning a period of over fifty years, The Wooden Chair tells the story of Leini Ruth Bauman and her relationship with her mother, whom she calls by her first name (Mira) from an early age. Leini is verbally and physically abused by Mira, who has been stuck on her own with a child she never wanted, since Leini's father Robert is away fighting in the War. Leini's mother is like the wooden chair in her childhood kitchen: "Leini wished Mamma would hug her back, but she was stiff and hard, her lap not so nice. Like the wooden chair in the kitchen in Helsinki."
A problem with Leini's eyesight is the beginning of a chain of events that will have tragic consequences and further increase the rift between mother and daughter. Leini takes the first opportunity she can to escape from Mira, but she ends up falling into her mother's self-destructive patterns. When Leini learns of Mira's childhood and why she has become the woman she is, Leini vows to break this destructive cycle. But will she succeed and finally be able to forgive her mother?
The narrative is evocative of the time; the author has an uncanny ability to describe smells, sounds, and textures, making us feel like we are actually there. The prose is beautiful, lyrical, and heart-wrenching, as reflected in the poignancy of Leini's prayer when she is only four years old: "God keep my papi safe. Make me a good girl so Mamma loves me." The book contains some minor editing errors, mainly vocabulary use. It is a bit repetitive in places and some scenes are a bit long, but overall this is an extremely well-written book. 

Guest Post by Rayne E. Golay On Ageing
George Carlin’s view on ageing with inserts from my family saga The Wooden Chair.
In the opening scene of The Wooden Chair, the policewoman approached the little girl alone singing in the bustling market place. The policewoman asks why she’s alone, where her mother is, and:
“How old are you?”
The little girl holds up four fingers. “I’m … this old” 
“You’re four years old?”
“Uh-huh. Almost five.”
This short exchange, which is just a snippet from the first chapter in The Wooden Chair, caused me to reflect on how we humans relate to our own age at the different stages, from childhood to old age.
The only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids. Being less than ten years of age, we're so excited about aging that we think in fractions, as the little girl in The Wooden Chair:
“How old are you?"
“I'm four and a half!"
We're never thirty-six and a half. We’re four and a half, going on five! That's the key...
We get into our teens. Now they can't hold us back. We jump to the next number, or even a few ahead:
"How old are you?"
"I’ll be sixteen!"
We could be thirteen, but hey, we’re going to be sixteen!
And then the greatest day of our lives . . . we become twenty-one. Even the words has the sound of a ceremony ... WE BECOME TWENTY-ONE ... YESSSS!!!
When my protagonist, Leini, meets Bill, she falls crazy in love with him. Here I’ll give you a short scene where they discuss Leini’s age:
Bill smiled. “You’re a very nice girl. I’d like to see you again, but I don’t think it would be suitable.”
For a moment, she couldn’t think for the confusion his comment caused. Disjointed thoughts bounced in her head. “What?” she said at length. “What’s unsuitable about seeing me?”
“You’re very young, probably not twenty yet.” A statement. “And I’m twenty-nine, a lot older than you.”
Her heart leaped, cheeks hot from embarrassment. She also felt indignant as if he’d studied her and found her wanting. I thought I was too young for him when I first met him. “I’ll be nineteen in November, next month.”
“Oh my, Leini, that makes me ten years older than you. That’s a big age difference.”
A toss of her head sent strands of hair bouncing off her face. “I’ll not always be nineteen. With time, I’ll get older, too.” And heard how childish she sounded.
Bill’s laugh deep in his throat was warm. “You’re right about growing older. But no matter how old you get, I’ll always be ten years ahead of you.”
But then we turn thirty. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes us sound like bad milk. He turned, we had to throw him out. There's no fun now. What's wrong? What's changed?
We BECOME twenty-one, we TURN thirty. Then we're PUSHING forty.
Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before we know it, we REACH fifty . . and our dreams are gone.
But wait a minute!!! We MAKE it to sixty. We didn't think we would, but we did!
So we BECOME twenty-one, TURN thirty, PUSH forty, REACH fifty and we MAKE it to sixty.
Now we’ve built up so much speed that we HIT seventy! After that it's a day-by-day thing; we HIT Wednesday!
If we live long enough, we GET into our eighties, and every day is a complete cycle; we HIT lunch; we TURN 4:30; we REACH bedtime.
And it doesn't end there. Into the nineties, we start going backwards; "I was JUST 92."
Then a strange thing happens. If we make it over one hundred, we become a little kid again:
"I'm one hundred and a half!"

From the Author
Whenever I pause and think about my past, I realized I've lived three lives in one. Some people are lucky to spend their whole life in the village or town or country where they were born. They're surrounded by relatives and friends they've known since childhood, have deep roots. I believe they are very rich. My life has been made of a different cloth with hues of the rainbow. It's been about change and adaptation.
I was born in Helsinki, Finland. For various reasons I changed schools three times before high school. When I was very small, my mother used to read to me. She helped me put letters together to form words. As she was done reading A Thousand and One Nights my passion was born. From then on, I read everything with the printed word: matchboxes, newspapers, pamphlet and books, of course. I was no more than six years old when my father obtained a library card for me. Believe me, that was one of the happiest days of my childhood. To this day, I read at least three books a week. In school, I always had high grades in composition and wanted to be a journalist, but my parents had other plans. I got a Masters degree in psychology, was certified as addictions counselor in England after studies in the United States.
Skilled in languages, from the age of fifteen I translated dialogues in Hollywood movies from English into Finnish and Swedish. This, my first paying job, came through my father, who was the Nordic managing director of a prominent American film company.
After graduation, I married, had two children in rapid succession. My then husband was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, so that's where we moved with our two wonderful children.
In Geneva, I worked in a multinational company as an addictions counselor with responsibilities for all of the company's European subsidiaries. During this time, I wrote two nonfiction books: one about alcoholism, another about dysfunction in the workplace. I also wrote the script to "Something of The Danger That Exists", a 50 minute film, used within the company as part of an educational program, which I facilitated. In my function, I was a frequent speaker on dependence at conferences and business groups. As I oversaw company sites throughout Europe and the then East Bloc countries, I'm fortunate to have traveled extensively.
As an avid reader, I've read most American, French, and Russian classics, modern literature and poetry. It may seem that my books are autobiographical, particularly The Wooden Chair, but that's not so. I believe in writing about what I know, so my life has parallels in Leini's story, but I guess you have to read the book to find out more.
My whole life I've longed for the sun and warmth. When opportunity presented itself, I took up residence in Florida. I live here with my partner, my best friend and husband.
The award-winning novel The Wooden Chair is my second book. Life is a Foreign Language is available in paperback and ebook. At present, I'm editing my third story.
Every book is a journey so enjoy the trip.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for your chance to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards, one of ten ebook copies of The Wooden Chair, or one of ten postcards (US only).


Book Tour Schedule

16 September - Interview - The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
17 September - Interview - Pembroke Sinclair
18 September - Guest blog - Rose & Beps Blog
19 September - Interview - The Simple Things in Life
20 September - Spotlight and Review - Faerie Tale Books
23 September - Interview - Readingin Twilight
24 September - Guest blog - Roxanne's Realm
25 September - Spotlight - Lisa's World of Books
26 September - Guest blog - Fang-tastic Books
27 September - Interview - Adrienne Woods Books and Reviews
2 October - Spotlight - Elfie Books
4 October - Guest blog - Bia's Wonderland
7 October - Spotlight and review - Book Bliss
9 October - Guest blog - Books, Books, The Magical Fruit
10 October - Guest post and Review - Books Direct
11 October - Spotlight - Books & Tales
14 October - Interview - Dalene's Book Reviews