Under this Unbroken Sky
by Shandi Mitchell
Winner of the Kobzar Literary Award, 2012
Shandi Mitchell’s vivid depiction of the harsh and often brutal reality of Depression-era pioneer life and her extraordinary ability to delve into the very essence of human suffering captures the reader’s imagination from the first page.
The novel revolves around a Ukrainian immigrant family’s struggles to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles to build a new life for themselves on the harsh prairie landscape. Teodor Mykolayenko returns to his family after spending a year in prison for the ‘crime’ of trying to feed them. During this time, his family has been looked after by his sister, Anna. Now, finally, upon his return, Teodor and his wife strive to put the past behind them and, with renewed resolve and back-breaking work, slowly start cultivating their newly-acquired farmland and rebuilding their family. Just as their dreams approach realization, their happiness is shattered by the return of Anna’s errant husband whose ill-disposed plans threaten to take away everything they have built. The ensuing tragic developments rip family apart and challenge the very survival of the human spirit.
This story of family love and deception, resilience and fragility is bound together by the almost lyrical descriptive passages of the harsh prairie setting which provides the ideal backdrop for this testing of the human will. This is a book that is hard to put down.
(Impressions of Irene Hordienko, Toronto ON)