COLLEEN’S #BOOK #REVIEWS – “Sisu: The Spy with One Finger,” BY Elmer Liimatta

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About this Book

This is a historical novel based on the true story of an American born Finnish communist spy from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The author, Elmer R. Liimatta, grew up in the same community as Arvid W. Jacobson. This story was written to honor Dr. Jacobson’s lifetime achievements.


“Sisu: The Spy with One Finger,” is Elmer Liimatta’s debut novel. Facts and fiction converge in the story of Arvid W. Jacobson, a Finnish-American Communist who spied for the Soviet Union in the 1930s. But there is so much more to this story. Arvid Jacobson helped create the first ENIAC computer, along with many other contributions throughout his lifetime.

Born in Covington, Michigan, Arvid suffered from a farming accident where he lost part of his hand. That accident changed his life in more ways than he could have ever imagined.

Life was hard in the UP of Michigan in the 1930s. Jobs were scarce and people had few choices available to them. Distrust in government seemed to be inherent in all immigrants, including the Finnish. The annexation of the Grand Duchy of Finland realized this distrust within the Russian Empire during the early 19th century, to the demise of the personal union between Russia and Finland.

These Finnish immigrants were hardy people, used to hardships. They believed in Sisu, which is considered not to have a literal equivalent in English, as it is a Finnish concept described as stoic resolve, the steadfastness of purpose, grit, bravery, strength, and resilience.

After the stock market crash of 1929, Arvid Jacobson found himself lured by the false promises of communism. I compared much of what happened to Arvid with the false news and right-wing propaganda popular in our current affairs. There is no doubt in my mind that history seems to repeat itself.

The rest of the story is Arvid’s to tell. From the walls of a Finnish prison where he lived for three years, he shares the details of his historic release and his return to the United States. Arvid’s story, and subsequent path to redemption, are full of Finnish wisdom. Arvid never backed down from his ideal to make the world a better place. In fact, he spent the rest of his life making it better.

I’m thrilled to share that I played a small part in creating this book’s cover along with my hard-learned print and eBook formatting skills. It was a thrill to be part of this book’s journey.

About the Author

Author, Elmer Liimatta

Elmer R. Liimatta was born in 1931 in the Upper Peninsula (UP), specifically the Copper Country of Michigan. He grew up with a younger sister Betty, and a brother Wilho, in a rustic logging camp located in Bootjack (Princess Pointe). His father Ainard and mother Mamie operated a logging company on rented land with several workers.

Elmer started school in the UP, but in 1942 they moved to Detroit due to WW II. After graduation from Hazel Park High School, Elmer was drafted into the Korean War. He served the U.S. Army in Korea during the war as a tank mechanic and Motor Sergeant E5.

Elmer maintains there were key elements in his life that helped him succeed. He learned early to do his best even if no one was watching. He expounded that he also learned to never give up. His dad taught him a love for tools, and how to solve problems, and how to work together as a team. By using these methods, he and his fellow army soldiers fixed mechanical problems so they could keep the tanks and vehicles running. Elmer lost three buddies in Korea. To this day, Elmer still enjoys the challenge of fixing a mechanical problem.

After serving in the Korean War, Elmer returned home and enrolled at Suomi College (now Finlandia University) in Hancock, Michigan. Elmer married Ruth Tapio in 1954.

Later, he earned a degree in Religious Education from Detroit Bible College/Willian Tyndale, a master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling from Eastern University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Ecumenical Theological Seminary. Elmer was called to pastor the Apostolic Lutheran Church in Detroit where he served for forty years. They retired in 1995 and moved to Chassell, Michigan.

Elmer and Ruth had five boys, Daniel, Jeffrey, Steven, Kevin, and Mark. While serving, Elmer helped to relocate and build a new church and parsonage in Southfield, Michigan.

Elmer was also very active with the Finnish Cultural Association (FCA) in Detroit. The FCA grew over the years and became a larger association of local Finns in the Detroit area. They gathered regularly to host events and meetings. They eventually built a hall and offices for events in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Elmer’s vision of a retirement village became a reality in 1987 with Tapiola Village. The retirement complex was built on a site next to the FCA. The “village” now has 91 apartments with many structured as four-unit “cluster” housing to aid in creating a family or village environment. The village is open to all seniors.

Elmer also served as a Police Chaplain for thirty years in the Southfield and Detroit area working with police officers, including inmates and victims, during the troubled 1960’s. Elmer received training at the Michigan State Police Academy on hostage negotiations with local law enforcement at Lansing, Michigan.

Elmer is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He served as Post, District, State, and National Chaplain 2010-11, at the same time.

Elmer’s main goal in life was to build and strengthen his community. Throughout his life, he met many interesting people and special characters. Dr. Arvid Jacobson was a very interesting person to work with and their friendship led Elmer to write this book to honor his friend.  


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37 thoughts on “COLLEEN’S #BOOK #REVIEWS – “Sisu: The Spy with One Finger,” BY Elmer Liimatta

  1. Right up my street – anything to do with spies. Love this and will seek it out. Thanks so much for featuring him. Will share. It is strange how things come full circle. I am writing about Ukrainian Pro-Russian Separatists and MH17 and bang! Pres. Putin hits Ukraine. Sad. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure! What a coincidence! 😳 I learned so much from this book. Finland used to be a Grand Duchey of Russia. Currently, Finland and Sweden aren’t part of NATO. I’m interested in your book. My grandfather immigrated from Russia.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I headed over from your link, Colleen. Love the cover! And the book sounds like a wonderful read. Congrat to Elmer on getting it done with a little help from you!


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