on June 18, 2003
Author Sandra Birdsell's tale reveals how an old woman now living in Canada recalls her dark past. Readers will revel in how Birdsell evokes a time and place that they rarely, if ever have even heard about: how a Mennonite community was devasted by the Russian Revolution.
Birdsell herself was born and raised in Manitoba, the 5th of 10 children and her family's origins trace back to Russia. Says Birdsell, "Twenty years ago, my great-uncle self-published his memoirs. In reading it, I realized what kind of a life my grandparents had before they came to Canada. I tried to write a short story - I wasn't wise or old enough. It's a book I had to grow into."
Birdsell began writing in '82 at the age of 40. The Russländer, her third novel, is a realistic, balanced portrayal of a group of people, written from the point of view of a religious sect, their beliefs and disbeliefs. It's not a Christian book, but the people are devout Christians.
This novel was written for a secular audience, but to state that The Russländer requires concentrated focus is an understatement. Fortunately, the effort will be rewarded. Birdsell writes with an uncanny knack for observation and detail.
In 2001, The Russländer won the Saskatchewan Book Award for Fiction, the Saskatchewan Book Award for Book of the Year, the Regina Book Award, and was a finalist for the Giller Prize.
In 2003, it deserves a second look.