Under This Unbroken Sky
By Shandi Mitchell
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061774027, 352pp.)
Publication Date: September 2009
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Evocative and compelling, rich in imagination and atmosphere, Under This Unbroken Sky is a beautifully wrought debut from a gifted new novelist.
Spring 1938. After nearly two years in prison for the crime of stealing his own grain, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko is a free man. While he was gone, his wife, Maria; their five children; and his sister, Anna, struggled to survive on the harsh northern Canadian prairie, but now Teodor—a man who has overcome drought, starvation, and Stalin's purges—is determined to make a better life for them. As he tirelessly clears the untamed land, Teodor begins to heal himself and his children. But the family's hopes and newfound happiness are short-lived. Anna's rogue husband, the arrogant and scheming Stefan, unexpectedly returns, stirring up rancor and discord that will end in violence and tragedy.
Under This Unbroken Sky is a mesmerizing tale of love and greed, pride and desperation, that will resonate long after the last page is turned. Shandi Mitchell has woven an unbearably suspenseful story, written in a language of luminous beauty and clarity. Rich with fiery conflict and culminating in a gut-wrenching climax, this is an unforgettably powerful novel from a passionate new voice in contemporary literature.
Shandi Mitchell is an award-winning Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter. She spent her childhood on a military base on the prairies and now makes her home in Nova Scotia with her husband, Alan, and their dog, Annie. Under This Unbroken Sky is her first novel.
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“[An] unflinching debut. . . . There’s a love for the land and the immigrant spirit throughout the book. This is one of the finest novels I have read this year—a lyrical, evocative tale of pioneer life from an immensely talented debut author.”
-Historical Novels Review
“A magnificent novel. . . . A powerhouse of a debut that grips from start to finish.”
-Steven Galloway, author of the The Cellist of Sarajevo
“Remarkable. . . . 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.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Utterly gripping. Epic in scope, this tale of family feuds, violence and hardship follows the fortunes of Theo Mykolayenko, a Ukrainian survivor of Stalin’s labour camps who starts a new life in the harsh Canadian Prairies. . . . Beautifully pitched and unsentimental in execution. Brilliant.”
-Marie Claire (UK)
“Unforgettable. . . . Mitchell’s extraordinary rendering of human suffering is matched by her ability to give powerful imaginative shape to the will to survive, to care for others, and to forgive the most brutal of trespasses.”
-Janice Kulyk Keefer, author of The Ladies' Lending Library