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Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell
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Under This Unbroken Sky (edition 2009)

by Shandi Mitchell

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Member:julyso
Title:Under This Unbroken Sky
Authors:Shandi Mitchell
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Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
A family of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada face obstacles on their homestead in Alberta. Hard work and family love pay off as they see their crops in, and a home built, every bit by the sweat of their own brows. Then all of it threatened by a lazy in-law and innocent hands. This author has a way with words - the family dynamics and the sense of place were potent. Highly recommended. ( )
  countrylife | Jan 27, 2014 |
"Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." No witches here, but Shandi Mitchell's debut novel, UNDER THIS UNBROKEN SKY, is filled with toil and trouble and this tragic tale could easily be seen as Shakespearean in its themes of greed, family betrayals and suffering. Novelist Ron Rash has likened Mitchell's fiction to that of Willa Cather. To that list I would add Mildred Walker, as I was often reminded of her classic novel of Depression-era Montana, WINTER WHEAT, one of my all-time favorite reads.

The bleakness of Depression-era prairie life in Alberta comes through best from the half-crazed viewpoint of abused and oft-abandoned wife, Anna Shevchuk, as she muses incoherently about her desperate situation.

"House, land ... Forever. Empty. Flat. Alone ... Nobody. Life. Sadness ..."

In Anna's increasing madness and her strange attempts to connect with marauding coyotes, I thought too of another Canadian writer, Marian Engle, and her twisted but magical novel, BEAR. People and animals. All of us beasts. No happy endings.

Ron Rash is correct, however, in his Cather connection and how important land is to farmers, and to immigrants in particular. Mitchell's protagonist, Teodor Mikhalayenko, defines himself, justifies himself in those terms, answering his sister Anna, when she asks why he couldn't "just leave": "Because it's my land. It's all I have and all I am. And no one will ever take it away."

All of the characters here are impressive and three-dimensional. Teodor's wife and children, as well as Anna's children and ne'er-do-well husband. Mitchell displays uncommon skill in getting inside the heads of all of them, making them incredibly real; and making you care about almost all of them. Anna's husband, Stefan, is a truly unlikeable scoundrel, a classic villain; but there is room for a tiny bit of pity for even him - that's how good Mitchell is!

Perhaps the most affecting of the secondary characters is Anna's daughter, Lesya, born with a club foot, she makes a pet of a similarly crippled chicken. Sadly, not even a crippled hen named "Happiness" can survive this harsh and cruel existence.

As I said at the outset, this is a tragedy, and a fine one at that. Mitchell is a wonderful writer. I can't wait to see what she writes next. Highly recommended. ( )
  TimBazzett | Aug 11, 2013 |
Great. Little House on the Prairies, for grown ups. Used a great device, right at the beginning of the book. She described a family photo taken in 1933, and said that 5 years later, one would be dead, and two of which there was no picture, would be murdered. The book then starts 5 years later. So you are wondering the entire time who and when the characters were going to die. It pulls you along through the entire book. You are waiting — is it now? — at every point in which you could imagine a death happening, whether because of a minor event such as the kids playing in the lake, or because of the disasters they face, like the wildfire racing through land. I read the entire book in one night. ( )
1 vote BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
Great. Little House on the Prairies, for grown ups. Used a great device, right at the beginning of the book. She described a family photo taken in 1933, and said that 5 years later, one would be dead, and two of which there was no picture, would be murdered. The book then starts 5 years later. So you are wondering the entire time who and when the characters were going to die. It pulls you along through the entire book. You are waiting — is it now? — at every point in which you could imagine a death happening, whether because of a minor event such as the kids playing in the lake, or because of the disasters they face, like the wildfire racing through land. I read the entire book in one night. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Sep 24, 2011 |
Historical novel set in Canada's northern prairies in the late 1930s. Ukrainian immigrants Teodor Mykolayenko, his wife Maria and their five children have escaped the oppression of Stalin's Soviet Union and settled on a homestead in western Canada. Having served a two-year sentence for stealing grain that belonged to him, Teodor returns to his family, which includes his sister Anna and her two children, and with demonic resolution sets out to clear the land and ensure his family's future in this harsh and perplexing country. Entering the picture once the work is done is Stefan, Anna's arrogant and deceitful husband, and there ensues a power struggle between the two men which divides the family and leads to the novel's violent and tragic conclusion. Mitchell's prose shimmers like the ice hanging from the trees in the timeless landscape that she brings expertly to life. The landscape and weather hover sullenly over the narrative, generating great tension and foreboding. An accomplished and utterly absorbing novel. Winner of a Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize. ( )
1 vote icolford | Aug 4, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
There are undoubted merits to Mitchell's gruelling story of an exiled Ukrainian family, trying to eke out a living on the vast Canadian plains. It is 1938... Despite impressive control of the subject and a stunning depiction of the natural world, the book sinks somewhat under the onerous weight of the appellation "epic".
 
The starkly gorgeous prairie comes alive…Combining the storytelling skills of Ivan Doig with the stunning landscapes in Karen Fisher’s A Sudden Country, Mitchell’s harrowing story delivers an unforgettable literary tribute to an immigrant people and their struggle. The lyrical style, the riveting historical material, and the treatment of prejudice make the novel a great book-club choice.”
 
“Under This Unbroken Sky crushed and inspired me simultaneously, a novel I didn’t want to end. Shandi Mitchell’s prose strikes like a prairie thunder storm, every page building to an intensity that’s simply awing to behold. Brilliant and honest and brutal, this new voice feels as old and right as anything I’ve read in a very long time.”
 
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There is a black and white photograph of a family: a man, woman, and five children.
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"Under This Unbroken Sky crushed and inspired me simultaneously, a novel I didn't want to end. Shandi Mitchell's prose strikes like a prairie thunderstorm, every page building to an intensity that's simply awing to behold. Brilliant and honest and brutal, this new voice feels as old and right as anything I've read in a very long time." --Joseph Boyden, Giller Prize Award-winning author of Through Black Spruce
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Out of prison, Theo Mykolayenkos tirelessly clears his untamed land on the 1938 Canadian prairie and begins to heal himself and his family, but when his sister's rogue husband returns, he stirs up rancor that will end in tragedy.

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