Sunday, August 23, 2009

Under This Unbroken Sky


They say that a picture speaks a thousand words but what do you see when the description is presented first? Shandi Mitchell's first novel, Under This Unbroken Sky, tackles this question head on. The novel starts with the description of a 1933, black-and-white photograph of a family. Although there are specifics listed (how each member of the family looks), the reader is free to draw his/her own conclusions about what type of life they have and what brought them to this time/place. Additionally, there is some foreshadowing that states what will become of them. Specifically, that one amongst them will die and two others (not seen) will be murdered. This alone will hook most readers and compel them to take an adventure Under This Unbroken Sky.

The story centers around an immigrant Ukrainian family and chronicles their struggles to survive the harsh Canadian prairie. The land and weather are not the only obstacles that must be faced. At the start of the novel, Teodor Mykolayenko has just finished serving a two year prison sentence and is determined to build a better life for his family. Teo not only supports his family but also supports his sister and her children. He clears his land, builds a house and plants his crops. Just when things start to look hopeful, tragedy – in the form of mother nature – strikes. They are confronted with fire, dust storms and snow. And, each time they survive; however, the real battles occur when Teo's brother-in-law, Stefan, returns. Saying anymore would be giving too much away.

The story was nicely paced and the descriptions were well done. You could clearly picture the environment and feel as though you were witnessing the events first hand. You will come to care for most of the characters and not want to see any of them die. Could you predict who dies? One death may be foreseeable but, for this reader, not the others. This is not a happy go lucky story. It is one of survival. We witness both the broken and the unbroken spirit of a human being trying to survive against all odds – physical and emotional.

I recommend to those interested in discovering a new voice.



7 comments:

  1. I read this too and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Great review!

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  2. What a well written review, Cathy! From your review I can tell that this book is descriptive and engaging.

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  3. You did an excellent job on this review. Although it was a very sad story, I really like the book. I especially like the way Shandi Mitchell writes.

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  4. Good catch on mentioning the photo description in the beginning - I forgot about that! It was a very interesting touch. Nice review!!!

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  5. I love immigrant stories so this sound appealing to me!

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  6. I so loved this book! I followed you to your blog through your review post on First Look. As another book lover in the software industry, I just wanted to say "hi"!

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  7. well done review, Cathy -- and the book sounds intense and interesting....

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