Friday, September 4, 2009

Under This Unbroken Sky-Shandi Mitchell

Under This Unbroken Sky
Shandi Mitchell
Harper, Sep 82009, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061774027

In 1936 on the Canadian Prairie, Ukrainian immigrant Theo Mykolayenko is thrown in jail for two years for stealing. Worried about his family, Theo had purloined his own grain that was legally taken from him when he defaulted on a homesteading contract as he did not have the money to pay his eleven dollar debt three weeks before the harvest was due that would have enabled him pay his debt and more. He lost his home, barn, and farming tools.

Theo is most worried about his family as he remains behind bars for twenty months. His oldest son young teen Myron plows his paternal Aunt Anna’s fields to feed both families while his martinet Uncle Stefan is off with the military. As Theo comes home to his beloved wife Maria and their five children, abusive Stefan also comes home to a pregnant wife who wants nothing to do with her violent spouse. However Stefan has a scheme and soon two families are at risk.

This is a well written but bleak Canadian historical thriller with lucid lessons that apply to the immigration issue today. The story line is grim as survival is a 24/7 job on the harsh plains during the Depression and the law does not make life any easier. Althouhg not an easy read as Shandi Mitchell never gives readers a respite from the severity of surviving, UNDER THE UNBROKEN SKY is a deep dour drama.

Harriet Klausner

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