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Under This Unbroken Sky    by Shandi Mitchell order for
Under This Unbroken Sky
by Shandi Mitchell
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Pat Elliott

Inspired by her family history, Mitchell has penned a remarkable story about family, injustice, heartbreak, and perseverance.

With the cunning of desperation, Theo Mykolayenko, his wife, Maria, and four children escaped Stalin's atrocities in the Ukraine in the dead of night. They traveled seven days to Poland. Canadian government people told them of the wonderful healthy climate and free farms in Canada. They signed on the bottom line, even though they didn't know what they were signing. They traveled on the lower deck of the ship with two hundred others to Halifax. A long weary trip by train, then wagon, then on foot led the little family to their first home in Canada.

This is the story of Theo, unjustly put in prison for stealing his own wheat, returning to find his family living in his sister's shed. It is about Theo's long recovery from a year in a Canadian prison and his perseverance to recover all he lost. It is the story of Maria, his wife, whose unfailing faith in her husband keeps herself and her children fed on little or nothing while Theo is gone. It is about Maria's kindness to Theo's sister and her children.

The children work and grow in the Canadian wilderness. Miron must become the head of the family while his father is gone. When Theo returns, Miron works beside Theo to build a home and plant crops. Ivan, who is five years old when Theo returns, is still a child with a child's dreams. Katya, six, and Sophia, eleven, attend school and are ashamed of their parents who do not speak English. Xanka, the oldest daughter, works tirelessly to lighten her mother's load.

This story is about Theo's sister Anna, and her children. Anna is dependent on Maria's kindess to feed her children. Mysha, who is crippled, learns from her aunt to be frugal and caring. Piotr and Ivan spell trouble if left alone. They lose more hats, socks and mittens than Maria and Xanka can knit.

This is not a happily ever after story. It does not have that sort of ending. It is about keeping on no matter what happens and making the best of it. Under This Unbroken Sky is a truly remarkable tale of the men and women who settled North America.

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