Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper (September 8, 2009)
Source: BN.com First Look Book Club
An immigrant Ukrainian family suffers unrelenting hardship on the tundra of late 1930s western Canada in this grim frontier tale. Thrown in prison for two years for helping himself to some of his own grain after defaulting on a homesteading contract, Ukrainian immigrant Theo Mykolayenko must deal with his nearly destitute wife and children. His oldest son helps to plow and plant fields owned by Theo’s sister, Anna, who is married to Stefan, a wayward and violent military man. Theo’s long-suffering wife, Maria, is tireless in caring for her family, nurturing the garden that feeds them and mending every stitch of clothing they wear. Meanwhile, unhappy Anna, pregnant with a child she does not want, is beguiled by the howling coyotes that surround the homestead at night. The extended family survives fire, dust storms, cold and hunger, only to face a nastier enemy much closer to home. This ambitious novel, full of the minutiae of the savage existence of a frontier family, comprises a harsh picture of lives lived in an unforgiving landscape, though some readers may find themselves wishing for an occasional break from the grinding woe.
And the constant hardships they faced took my breath away! I always find myself rooting for the good guys to have a happy ending, but life doesn’t work out that way and neither does this story. The ending took me by surprise, but made total sense. I’d recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fiction and appreciates talented, beautiful writing.