Under This Unbroken Sky …a review

It surprisingly is Shandi Mitchell’s first novel. I hadn’t expected it to be this good. For someone penning down a novel for the first time, it is brilliant. What stuck with me were the vivid images of the landscape, long after I’d put down the book, which describes a slice of life of the Ukrainian immigrants in the northern plains of Canada.

It is the spring of 1937, and Theo Mykolayenko returns to his wife and children after serving two years in jail for stealing his own grain. He wants to reclaim all that is rightfully his. Maria, his wife, and children survived the years by living in Theo sister’s shed and by pooling together their resources. Theo’s sister, Anna, has secured an adjacent homestead for Theo, unbeknown to her abusive husband. The characters just come alive and will have the reader vested in their lives and feel their pain and joy of the vicissitudes of life.

Why does Anna cohort with the coyotes and will she learn from their strength to resist letting her husband back into her life? Will Maria, with her soothing spirit, be able to mend her husband and her sister-in-law? Will the children of Theo and Anna be able to straddle both their Ukrainian past and Canadian future? A curious sense of loss, despair, and tragedy was always present, but to the credit of Shandi Mitchell’s skill as a writer, I was not quite sure when the lightning would strike.

Quote: THERE IS A BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPH OF 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. … They are all dressed in their church best. … 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.

3 thoughts on “Under This Unbroken Sky …a review

  1. Quite impressive. I could imagine Black and White scenes of the story in my mind. You did something in the writeup, which made me create an old image.
    You could have described a bit more about the emotions and turbulence that the protagonist went through.

    Cheers!
    Ameet

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