Monday, September 14, 2009

"Under This Unbroken Sky" by Shandi Mitchell

I received this book as part of Barnes and Nobles First Look Book Club. I found out about First Look by becoming a B&N fan on Facebook and I am very glad that I did. This was the first selection I received but I had a very tough time getting into it. Some books grab you right from the start and others are slower to lure you in. This one falls into the latter category. For me part of it was for summer I wasn't in the mood for such a heavy book. For awhile at the beginning it felt like nothing good happened to any of the characters. As I kept with it though the story came alive for me.

The setting is Canada in the late 1930's and the two families are immigrants from the Ukraine who left to escape Stalin's rule. They settled and received farms and signed papers on what improvements they were expected to make to keep their land. Unfortunately as English was not their first language there was either a misunderstanding or the Canadian government was trying to steal the land back now that improvements had been made and Theodor's family is told they must leave. When they do he takes some wheat to start a new farm with and is imprisoned for 2 years for stealing, during which time his wife and 5 children live in his sisters shed and help her tend her farm. The poverty is great for all involved. When Theodor returns he is a shell of a man and must regain his strength. Unfortunately once things seem to be going well again his brother-in-law Stefan who is an alcoholic and schemer returns and sets things out of sorts again in such a way that the characters have an almost impossible time righting their lives and (this is not a spoiler because it is in the prologue for the book) two of the characters do not survive the after effects of his plans to take all that has been gained by all involved with tending the land.

The novel is broken down by seasons which makes sense for a farm since it is run by the seasons and within the hardships you can see glimpses of joy and love that even extreme poverty couldn't take away. It really makes you appreciate and feel grateful for what you have.

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