Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Under This Unbroken Sky

"There is a black-and-white photograph of a a family: a man, woman, and five children. Scrawled on the back, in tight archaic script, are the words Willow Creek, Alberta, 1933. This will be their only photograph together.

Within three years, this farm will be foreclosed. Two years later, one will die. Two others, of whom there is no photograph, will be murdered.

But this day, in the moment right after the shutter clicks shut, this family takes a deep breath and smiles. "

In the spring of 1938, after two years in prison for stealing his own grain, Ukrainian immigrant, Teodor Mykolayenko is a free man. While in prison, his no-frills wife, Maria, takes of care of their five children and Teodor's delusional sister, Anna, on a barren homestead in the northern Canadian prairies.
Surviving Stalin's regime and near starvation, Teodor is determined to build a profitable farm and provide for his family and sister, but the odds are against him from the very beginning. Clearing the land and raising wheat in the middle of the harsh Canadian tundra is difficult enough, but when Anna's loser of a husband, Stephan, returns, Teodor's problems escalate.

This debut novel is not about the characters, but about the land and starkness of existence in the middle of nowhere. The author, Shandi Mitchell, shows the reader through language the difficulties of one man and his family as they try to build a home and provide for themselves against natural elements and family feuds.

If you enjoy literary books and beauty of language, you will devour Under This Unbroken Sky. I give this novel a 10!


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