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Under This Unbroken Sky

By Shandi Mitchell

Under This Unbroken Sky
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2009,
    320 pages.

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Gail B. (Albuquerque, NM) (09/22/09)

Seeking an Unbroken Sky
At a time when the Dust Bowl was raging across the American plains, Ukrainian families fled the misery and oppression of Stalin's regime to make a fuller life in the Western Canada prairie.

This is the story, drawn from the author's family history, of a family determined to succeed in a new home. Despite one tragic event after the other, the family continues to dream of a bountiful future, living free under an unbroken sky. Yet, try as they may their luck never changes, never improves. They fall victim to every disaster possible -- natural as well as humanly induced. Ultimately, even the most innocent events have profound effect on their fate. Shandi Mitchell tells this immigrant tale with vigor and empathy and eloquence that make it a gripping read.
Andrea S. (Lafayette, IN) (09/21/09)

Well done telling of life on the plains of Canada
This book was a very intense look at a little piece of Canadian history I was not familiar with. Ukrainian families were recruited to come and settle the plains of Canada in the 1930's during the Stalin era. Under This Unbroken Sky is the story of two of those families. The writing is rich and evocative, the characters are well drawn. You feel as if you are in the room with them, doing what they are doing, seeing the animals in the barn, or working the fields. It is not a light and happy tale, but a look at people who move far to change their lives and how it doesn't always turn out the way they plan.
Marta M. (Tustin, CA) (09/20/09)

heart- wrenching
This was a beautifully written novel. It kept me riveted from the first page. The characters are fully drawn and it was a pleasure to read such lyrical writing. I only gave it 4 stars because I have a hard time with depressing novels. This should be a favorite of book clubs all over North America.
Jo B. (DeRidder, LA) (09/17/09)

Under This Unbroken Sky
This was a most enjoyable book. I loved the detail of the characters and the description of the land. The reader really gets the feel for the hard life that these people lived. There was an element of surprise as you went along which kept it from being predictable. I would recommend this book.
Arden A. (Homosassa, FL) (09/15/09)

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. In this book, "Under This Unbroken Sky," the words are worth a thousand pictures. You can see the stark landscape, the animals, both wild and human, scavenging for survival, which is the operative word here, because in the 1938 savage Canadian wilderness, life as we know it does not exist; rather life is about survival.

My words cannot do justice to the beauty, albeit stark, of this first novel. I have seen the word "depressing" used to describe it, but even if that is the case, i could not put it down. I'm there, in the cold, dreary, angry winter, and I'm there in the warm months when the ground needs to be planted with the seeds of the families' survivals. There is love, the love of the land "under this unbroken sky," and there is hate and misunderstanding; there are good people, who work hard and try to do what is right and just, and there are bad people. Or are there? This was a wonderful novel.
Sue P. (Richardson, TX) (09/13/09)

Still Reeling From This Debut Novel
I was so involved with the characters in this novel that I dreamed of them. The suspense rivals the most nail-biting thriller I've ever read; the passion and beauty of the language is sometimes overwhelming; and you will never forget the climax. Not an easy read, but a wonderful one.
Marcia F. (Batavia, IL) (09/13/09)

Under This Unbroken Sky
Conditions on the prairie in the l930s, whether in the US or Canada, were harsh and difficult for all who tried to survive there. In Canada, the treatment towards the Ukrainian immigrants was especially harsh as elegantly portrayed by Shandi Mitchell in her new novel, Under This Unbroken Sky. Her first description of the boys throwing a mouse to the cats to see which one killed it to the final page captivated me completely and I could not put this book down. This is would be a perfect book selection for book clubs as it is a wonderful, fast read with many possibilities for discussions.The story is not an unfamiliar one, but it is extremely well told and has many new twists and very different ending. I loved this book and eagerly await Ms. Mitchell's next novel.
Marion W. (09/10/09)

I cannot reconcile Mitchell's account with the people I knew
I really didn't like Shandi Mitchell's "Under the Unbroken Sky"! To me it was just another tale of poverty-stricken misery, like Helen Forrester's memoirs of her Liverpool childhood and Frank McCourt's of his in Ireland.

It's terribly depressing to read of hunger, filth, mental illness, treachery, brutality, hostile people, degradation...on and on and on.

The Canadian prairies are a tough place to live; I know, I was born and lived there for a long time. But the Ukrainian-Canadians whom I knew in Manitoba--of the same generation as those described in Mitchell's book--were resilient, resourceful, humorous, and spirited people, and their children (now in their 60s and 70s) grew up to become doctors, lawyers, artists and musicians, business people. My best friend's mother (raised on a Manitoba farm) bought her own store; she and her husband (who'd fled Ukraine rather than starve under Stalin's repression) raised their five kids in rooms behind this mom-and-pop grocery store. She was also a poet. All five kids attended Ukrainian language classes (as well as good old Lord Roberts School, of course), and all five took music lessons. Four have made music their livelihood at one time or another.

Another woman whom I know, who came to Winnipeg not knowing a word of English, worked in the needle trade, and ultimately bought the apartment building next door to my childhood home.

I cannot reconcile Mitchell's account with the lives of the people whom I knew and admired.

She betrays herself as a Maritimer when she states that the kids didn't attend school because the temperatures hit twenty below. I taught in an elementary school in Winnipeg for three years. We could have indoor recess if, and only if, the temperature went (below) twenty below. (And wind chill wasn't a factor considered at that time!) When the kids (and I, if I were on recess duty that day) came indoors, and they had divested themselves of all their outdoor clothing, and their mittens were steaming atop the radiators, I would have them sit with their palms over their frostbitten cheeks for ten minutes or so while I read them a story. But school (200 days a year) was never cancelled (except one day during a blizzard; I walked three miles downtown and hitched a ride before reaching the school and learning this), and no one ever stayed away because of the cold. This applied to kids living in the country, too, not just city kids; my brother-in-law attended a rural one-room school and also taught in one for four years. He rode an old horse to school in the winters when he was a student and the snow was particularly deep.
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