Picture a Swedish homegoods store, with a winding labyrinth of show rooms (sort of like one you’ve probably heard of). Add a heartbroken retail worker, her non-binary ex, and a customer whose grandmother wandered through a wormhole into another reality. Stir in a healthy dose of anti-capitalist sentiment, and you’d have Finna, by Nino Cipri. Ava is just trying to get through another day at her soul-crushing job at LitenVärld, but fate and wormholes both have other plans.
First of all, the set-up for this story is dark comedy gold. Nobody who has ever set foot in a huge furniture store would be surprised to find a wormhole to another dimension there. As Ava and Jules travel through the maskhål (that’s Swedish for “wormholes,” at least according to their boss), they encounter threats ranging from the hilarious wingback fly trap, to a thematically on-point hive mind.
Cipri does an amazing job of capturing the exact agony of a soul-crushing corporate retail job, from the bland co-workers to the chipper boss pretending that you’re all a big family, or that corporate policy has a heart. It’s the kind of humor that makes you laugh as it cuts you. Every paragraph oozes anti-capitalist undertones, without being overbearing.
Under the humor and politics lurk deeply human characters. Ava and Jules are among the most believable, nuanced characters I’ve ever met, and the way that each of their neuroses play off of the other’s is just so, so perfect. Ava’s anxiety and Jules’s insecurity, her strong emotions and need for control versus their wanderlust and need to be seen as competent, painted such a vivid picture of two beautiful, whole people. Much of the emotional story arc is about the the fact that they still care about each other in the wake of the break-up, and it’s honestly a breath of fresh air. Here are two people who care deeply about each other, but who are truly better off as friends than lovers. That is something worth savoring.
In the end, Finna tells us that life is short, connection is worth fighting for, and retail work sucks. These are messages that bear repeating, in a voice that is worth listening to. This energetic, anti-capitalist adventure is a perfect book for anybody who is feeling stuck, or who is just fed up with the modern world.