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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review: Under this Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

Title: Under this Unbroken Sky 
Author: Shandi Mitchell 
Genre: Fiction - Historical 
Finished: June 18, 2009 

In the north Canadian prairie lands, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko was sent to prison for two years for "stealing" grain that he cultivated. When his family, which includes five children, could not pay for their land, they had to vacate it despite all of the work already done on it. When Teodor tried to take some of the grain to replant somewhere else in order to give his family the start they needed, he was imprisoned for theft. With him gone, his family had no choice but to make ends meet the best way possible. Though it was a struggle, his wife Maria managed. Unable to own property as a criminal, Teodor's sister Anna purchased land with the promise that she would sign over his portion to him. Finally home after his two year sentence, where the book begins, Teodor wants to pick up where he left off with his family, gain ownership of his land through Anna, and build a great home to take care of his wife and children properly. He wants the pride of being able to call something his. Sister Anna is coming apart just as Teodor tries to mend everything. Pregnant with her third child, a child of rape by her drunken and often absent husband Stefan, she feels a kinship to the wild coyotes that roam the Canadian wild lands. With every howl she hears at night, she recognizes a freedom that has always been denied her. It is hard for Anna to adapt, to accept what life has given her, but Teodor wants all of them to have the best. Things get even worse for Anna when Stefan returns. Desperate to keep him, she sacrifices the love her brother has for her. Because Stefan says so, she submits to allowing him to try to take the land that Teodor has settled on because he has no legal right to it. Anna is willing to forsake her promise and her loyalty to Teodor because she does not want her and her two children to be alone. 

By the end, everything has come apart. 

People lose their lives, dreams are shattered, and a wounded family has to once again pick up and start all over again. There is no way to say this other than that I love this book. I honestly could not and did not put it down until it was finished. My boyfriend and I went out for a while when I started this book, but all I wanted to do was come home and keep reading. Under This Unbroken Sky is beautifully written and painfully vivid. The descriptions of the Canadian prairie and of the rough, desolate farming conditions are as lovely as they are striking. Each and every character is brilliantly developed and complex. You feel for young Sophie and her desire to be beautiful and rich. You love the innocence in Ivan and his moments of childish selflessness. You respect the strength in Maria and her desire to keep everything together for the sake of her children. And most of all, you can feel just how much Teodor wants his family to be happy. Every day, he goes out to the fields to sweat and toil, and it is all for them. The way Teodor understands and appreciates the land shows his nature as a man who is both gentle and rough, passionate about what he does and respectful of the natural world. Teodor is a pillar of strength to his family and it is easy to see through his character why this is. There's something about this novel that goes right to your heart. I certainly felt it in mine as I read. By the time I got to the end, I was frantic. I pride myself on being a fairly emotionally balanced person, but this novel broke my heart and almost had me in tears. It's all unbelievably emotional to witness the ups and downs of these imperfect but good people, and you want the best to come to them. When you realize that the most horrible thing you could imagine is about to happen, your heart absolutely breaks.  This book is going to go on my list of must reads and most favorites.

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