Mary Lumijarvi Caraker
Finnish North American Literature Association
Born in 1929, Mary Jane Lumijarvi is the granddaughter of Finnish immigrants who
settled near Astoria, Oregon. She grew up in a rural Finnish-American community,
and attended Willamette University, the University of Oregon, and San Francisco
State University. She holds a BA and an MA degree in English Literature.
Mary was married in 1957 to Edward Emmett Caraker, and was widowed in
1989. She has taught in secondary schools, and now works as a freelance writer.
She is most often anthologized as a science fiction writer. She lives in California.
Seven Words. Signet, 1986.
Watersong. Questar Science Fiction, Warner Books, 1987.
The Faces of Ceti. Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
Growing Up Soggy, Sampo Press, 1995.
Elina, Mistress of Laukko: A Novel. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press of St. Cloud,
The Snows of Jaspre. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Tales of the Lumipaikka. St. Cloud, MN: North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2000.
Women of the Kalevala: Stories Based on the Great Finnish Epic. St. Cloud, MN:
North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1996.
"How Toivo Saved the World." Connecting Souls: Finnish Voices in North
American. Varpu Lindstrom and Borje Vahamaki, editors. Beaverton, Ontario,
Canada: Aspasia Books, 2000.
Growing up Soggy: A Novel. New Brighton, MN: Sampo Publishing, 1995. Second
A Story of Three: Elina Mistress of Laukko
By Beth L. Virtanen
Mary Lumijarvi Caraker’s Elina, Mistress of Laukko, is a story of three women,
Elina a young woman of medieval Finland; Lily of modern day America, and Gran
Kinnunen, Lily’s grandmother. The tripartite tale is held together through the
consciousness of Lily, the modern woman who, in the text, is writing the story of
Elina while staying with her grandmother. Left by her husband for another woman,
Lily untangles a web of family secrets that have left her grandmother at odds with
the community as the subject of innuendo and rumor.
Gran Kinnunen single-handedly managed her cattle farm, raised her only son and
kept to herself for the years following her husband’s suspicious death. In
congruence with her family’s ways, Gran does not divulge the secrets that lie at
the heart of the mystery, nor does she share the information that will stop the
rumors of her own witchcraft and trickery. Resolute, Gran Kinnunen tends to her
own concerns and, thus, when Lily is abandoned by her fickle spouse, she turns
to the strongest figure in her life for support.
Even while she depends on her grandmother, Lily is driven to discover the
incident that has caused the rift in her family and the truth regarding her
grandmother’s responsibility for the acts she is rumored to have committed. The
tales of the two primary characters are thus intertwined. But the dramatic
underpinnings associated with the cultural significance of the work center on the
Elina’s story finds its origin in the works collected and preserved by Elias Lönnrot
in the Kanteletar published first in Helsinki in 1840 and 1841. In this narrative,
Elina is pressed into marriage to a rich and jealous man many years her senior.
This ill-fated union reflects the struggles implicit in the other two levels of narrative
and ends with a violent and surprising twist.
Taken together, the three stories encapsulate the quintessential struggle of
women throughout time—how to find love and respect in a world populated with
dubious and jealous men who place above all their own self-interest. That is not to
suggest that all men are self-absorbed, but instead to intimate that women
sometimes have trouble telling the difference between those who talk a good line
and those who mean it, often until it is well too late to save themselves from a lot
Elina is a sensitive and uplifting novel, one I am happy to have discovered in the
course of my research. It is a book of substance and sensitivity, and embodies a
certain kind of honesty, the kind that allows us to thank God when we are not the
ones afflicted with certain and unanticipated adversity. It is a good book.
Caraker has written four science fiction novels as well as Elina (1997) and a
collection, Women of the Kalevela: Stories Based on the Great Finnish Epic
(1996). Elina is available from North Star Press of St. Cloud.