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Under This Unbroken Sky Paperback – Aug 10 2010

7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Canada (Aug. 10 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143168495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143168492
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #168,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"This stunning first novel is powerful, tragic and utterly gripping" - The Times

"Beautifully drawn characters, flawless descriptions of an unrelenting landscape and the intricate plot add to this harrowing, breathtaking novel... Not to be missed" - She

"Shandi Mitchell's impressive debut may not sound like your typical beach read but this tautly controlled epic should keep those in search of some holiday literary escapism hooked until the last page all the same" - Metro

"In the Canadian prairies, a Ukrainian family that has escaped Stalin's regime anxiously awaits the return of patriarch Theo from prison. Theo makes a deal with his sister Anna to farm part of her land, which the family then tends to support themselves. But this growing harmonious enterprise is devastated by the return of Anna's malevolent husband. A beautiful story about two families who have nothing, yet manage to strip each other of everything." - Easy Living Magazine

"Shandi Mitchell's debut is not the cheeriest of reads—from the opening pages there's a palpable feeling of menace and unease —but it is 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. His mettle is tested to the limit by the land and his neighbours' hostilities, but eventually his fields are golden with corn and his family start to thrive. That is, until the return of his sister's malevolent, drunken husband, whose merciless greed threatens to undermine everything Theo has so resolutely worked for. Beautifully pitched and unsentimental in execution. Brilliant." - Marie Claire

“The starkly gorgeous prairie comes alive...Combining the storytelling skills of Ivan Doig with the stunning landscapes in Karen Fisher's A Sudden Country, 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

“Under This Unbroken Skycrushed and inspired me simultaneously, a novel I didn’t want to end. Shandi Mitchell’s prose strikes like a prairie thunderstorm, every page building to an intensity that’s simply awing to behold. Brilliant and honest and brutal, this new voice feels as old and right as anything I’ve read in a very long time.” - Joseph Boyden, Giller Prize Award-winning author of Through Black Spruce

“A magnificent novel, written with grace and power, Under This Unbroken Sky is a powerhouse of a debut that grips from start to finish.” - Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo

“The tragedy Shandi Mitchell explores in her novel is as unforgettable as the truth and stark beauty of its telling. 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

“Under This Unbroken Sky is a dazzling novel. Shandi Mitchell's depiction of Depression-era prairie life has a vividness and veracity that brings to mind Willa Cather's fiction, but Mitchell's voice and her rendering of the human heart's complexities are completely her own. She is a writer of immense talent. - Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena


"A magnificent novel, written with grace and power, Under This Unbroken Sky is a powerhouse of a debut that grips from start to finish." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on Aug. 25 2013
Format: Paperback
"Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." No witches here, but Shandi Mitchell's debut novel, UNDER THIS UNBROKEN SKY, is filled with toil and trouble and this tragic tale could easily be seen as Shakespearean in its themes of greed, family betrayals and suffering. Novelist Ron Rash has likened Mitchell's fiction to that of Willa Cather. To that list I would add Mildred Walker, as I was often reminded of her classic novel of Depression-era Montana, WINTER WHEAT, one of my all-time favorite reads.

The bleakness of Depression-era prairie life in Alberta comes through best from the half-crazed viewpoint of abused and oft-abandoned wife, Anna Shevchuk, as she muses incoherently about her desperate situation.

"House, land ... Forever. Empty. Flat. Alone ... Nobody. Life. Sadness ..."

In Anna's increasing madness and her strange attempts to connect with marauding coyotes, I thought too of another Canadian writer, Marian Engle, and her twisted but magical novel, BEAR. People and animals. All of us beasts. No happy endings.

Ron Rash is correct, however, in his Cather connection and how important land is to farmers, and to immigrants in particular. Mitchell's protagonist, Teodor Mikhalayenko, defines himself, justifies himself in those terms, answering his sister Anna, when she asks why he couldn't "just leave": "Because it's my land. It's all I have and all I am. And no one will ever take it away."

All of the characters here are impressive and three-dimensional. Teodor's wife and children, as well as Anna's children and ne'er-do-well husband. Mitchell displays uncommon skill in getting inside the heads of all of them, making them incredibly real; and making you care about almost all of them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mj Perry on June 8 2011
Format: Paperback
I would not have bothered to open this book had it not be assigned for a course. However, I am glad I was required to read it, and can hihgly recommend it.

This book is not fast paced. In fact, it is very slow, but the slowness helps to emphasize the ongoing stuggles of the Mykolayenko family. Trying to forge a new life in Canada, after leaving Stallinist Ukraine in the middle of the night, they face difficulties they had not anticipated and find that their new home is not all that they had hoped it would be.

At times it seems that nothing can go right for this family with five children, as they struggle with racism, classism, exploitation, alcoholism, family violence, betrayal and systemic intollerance. Throughout all the difficulies, however, there is a spirit of human hope and determination with an underlying gentleness.

This novel portrays one of the more significant but rarely discussed times in Canadian history of the Ukrainian migration to the Canadian prairies. It is worth the read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is so compelling it was hard to put it down. The plight of Ukrainian immigrants trying to make ends meet is heart wrenching. The author writes in such a way that you feel you are living in the time period. This story is remarkable.
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By Jo-Anne Sinclair on Feb. 5 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the vain of Alice Munro. If you enjoy dark brooding books, this one is for you. Twists right till the end.
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