THE TERRIBLE TRUTH about the book Extreme Estonia is that I didn’t take it very seriously when it landed on my so-called desk. I was too biased, too doubtful, because the word “extreme” to me carried with it unwritten references to tattoos, piercings, snowboarding events sponsored by fast food companies, and bungee jumping.
And the pathetic thing about Estonia is that so much of it is not extreme in any way. There’s nothing particularly extreme about gazing at some fluffy white sheep under some fluffy white clouds on Saaremaa, is there, unless you happen to contract Lyme disease while doing it. Honestly, I almost fell asleep when I wrote about Saaremaa for Minu Eesti 2, because it was just such a relaxing place. But fortunately the extreme in Extreme Estonia refers more to the idea of being remote, outermost, farthest removed, and in this sense it is a very credible title for such an interesting book.
What Terhi Pääskyla-Malström does in Extreme Estonia is take readers to the extremities of this intriguing northern land. And what one learns while flipping through these 192 pages, is that there is a hell of a lot to experience up here. Sure, I have been to Haapsalu and to Narva and to Võru and to Pärnu, but I haven’t managed to get out to the Pakri Islands (and I probably never will). And given the pace of the book, the terrain covered, and the author’s wonderful sense of humor, one gets the sense that he or she has hitched a ride with Terhi and is finally going to all of those distant-feeling places, locations and settings I would bet that many Estonians have not even visited.
My favorite section of this book dealt with humorous place names in Estonia. Feel a sudden urge to visit Urge? Mustvee? Of course, we must! And why not say “I do” in Aidu? Good old Terhi! She’s a tremendously sympathetic writer. She can be honest and sarcastic at the same time, and her buoyant and informative text obliterated any doubts I had about this book. Doubt. It’s a peril that all writers face, that irritating question of who are you and why do you have any business writing a book about anything? Many readers ask authors this question, and the authors restrain themselves from answering back, “Well, if you have such doubts about my abilities, why don’t you go write a book yourself?”
But maybe Terhi doesn’t have these doubts. She seems like a courageous person, and her book inspired me to be more courageous too. Get out a bit more. See Estonia, see the world. Time to set away the laptop and trek out to that remotest, farthest removed, outermost point. And don’t forget to take along your copy of Extreme Estonia.