Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell - Book Review

Perhaps Shandi Mitchell best sums up the premise of her debut novel, Under This Unbroken Sky. In an interview she says it’s about, “two families consumed by the land that they yearned to possess.” Consumed is an understatement.

In 1938, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko returns to the wife and five children he left behind when he was sent to prison. His sister has housed the family, though she has her own struggles with a nasty-piece-of-work husband and two children of her own. Teodor has survived far worse trials than managing the harsh Canadian prairie,
he’s a former Stalin labor camp survivor, but it will be a mixture of that harsh landscape, misunderstandings and injustices that will break him.

Told through multiple viewpoints and intermixed with fine literary touches, like sections marked by the changing seasons of the land and a recipe for borsch equating happiness with food abundance, Under This Unbroken Sky builds with a constant tension that keeps readers waiting for the gut punch, knowing it’s coming. The novel is epic in scale. It covers the range of human emotions as disputes, brutality and hardships are tempered with love, kindness and abundances. The plot will leave readers both flattened and uplifted. The characters, especially through the use of their own viewpoint, are well formed. And Ms. Mitchell rightly notes in her interview that, “the landscape... is a living, breathing character. It’s the silent witness in the novel.”

Still, Mitchell’s interview won’t tell you that Under This Unbroken Sky is a captivating, atmospheric, un-put-down-able novel that will leave you thinking about it long after the last page.

Genre: Historical Fiction. Pages 352.
Thank You: Barnes & Noble First Look advanced copy
Publisher: Harper Collins. Date: September 2009.

Buy Under This Unbroken Sky Here

Reader's Guide from the Harper Collins Book Site

Photographs from The Canadian National Archives. Ms. Mitchell used these for inspiration:

Video Interview with Shandi Mitchell:

Shandi Mitchell is a screenwriter and filmmaker living in Nova Scotia. She has a dog and a husband. You can read more from Ms. Mitchell on her Harper Collins author page or on her website.

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Natalie W said...

I read this too and loved every minute!


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