09 / 2016
145 x 215 mm
Jari Tervo

The Matriarch

‘The villagers reacted to the Council’s invitation as if it were a smile. Slowly, it deepens and broadens and reveals a row of iron teeth.’

The Matriarch is a turbulent novel of migration in which whole ethnic groups are on the move. In the past and in the present.

Have you ever heard of the Ingrians? They are a people, related to the Finns, who resided in the Soviet Union. They were massacred in a series of events that could, and even ought to be, called a genocide.

The life of Aamu Lambsdaughter and her family, originally from a little village called Clam by the Gulf of Finland, is composed of incredible events and tragic adventures. After getting deported to the cruel arctic wilderness in Siberia, the young Aamu is abducted to become a concubine to a Samoyed clan chef. She manages to escape and reunite with her childhood friend and lover. They walk the thousands of kilometers back to Clam – only to live for years in hiding, in a vast, pitch-dark grave.

Perhaps the luck has turned, when their tribal brothers in Finland welcome the Ingrians to return “home” during the Second World War. But the course of history has other plans for them.

A family epic with multiple narrators, the skillfully orchestrated novel The Matriarch sometimes reaches the heights of surrealism. This is Tervo’s first novel with Otava Publishing Company. It is a ferocious, lush and ingenious family saga that combines historic events with current international themes like minority repression, refugees, human rights, and the role of Russia today.


A nearly magical swirl of different people, ethnic groups and time periods, playful, frenzied, angry, gentle, amusing and terrible… We have now received the most important work to date of Jari Tervo’s career. The drama intensifies steadily in this visionary and masterfully constructed work… Tervo shakes us awake. – Helsingin Sanomat

An exceptionally ambitious and respectfully written tour de force… Tervo’s pen is still roguish and his sentences, idiosyncratic… He draws critical societal parallels between the exile of the people of Clam and the racism and refugee treatment of today. Russia’s human rights situation and the rights of sexual minorities are also touched upon… [The Matriarch is] a manifesto for humanity. – Aamulehti


Foreign Rights Information

An excerpt in English is available

A synopsis in English is available

Rights sold to Norway (Gyldendal Norsk)