I’ve read bleak depressing books before and this one is one of them. There are a few light hearted moments but not many. Living on a farm in the 30’s was extremely hard and twice as difficult if you were immigrants. This book stresses the family dynamic and without the cooperation of everybody then nothing would work and everybody would starve. You have Teodor and Myron (father and son) who work the fields and do the majority of the heavy duty work. Maria (the mother) and her daughters help in the kitchen and prepare food, plant seeds into the soil, and help out what’s needed around the farm. Throughout the pages you just read about them working so hard to overcome harsh winters, and hot summers. It’s not the most easiest work in the world.
So you have one family doing a lot of work, putting their blood, sweat, and tears into their beloved farm to make a living, and to survive. On the other side you have the other family. Anna, Petro, Lesya (might be Mischa in other versions of the novel from what I hear), and Stefan. They don’t do much. Although Lesya seems to be the one carrying the family on her shoulders (and she’s a young girl, younger than 16). Anna is busy wallowing in her self pity and depression. Her marriage to Stefan isn’t so great as he leaves for several months and then comes back whenever he feels like it. Petro idolizes his father not knowing any better.
There, you have two very different families. You read through their hardships and at first everything is all right. Then several catastrophes happen. It’s almost as if it’s an omen for things to come. Then Stefan arrives into the picture. Remember my hatred for Robert Dudley in The Virgin’s Lover? Well Stefan is down there too. I can’t stand this guy. He’s arrogant, he’s scum, he’s got all the qualities I dislike. Thanks to him, everything just goes to nothing. I can’t sympathize with Anna. Then again perhaps she has every right to be acting the way she is. Of all the characters I like Teodor and Maria the most. They were so supportive of each other and were very strong. I admired Maria the most because she went through great lengths to support her family and was the steady “rock” who was the glue of the family.
Normally I don’t read this kind of fiction but I decided why not. Give it a try. I don’t regret it, however I was a little squeamish as there were parts of graphic deaths of animals and I just can’t stomach those. There was a lot of description and normally I can’t stand that but it was well done. It wasn’t over the top description but enough to let you feel and literally smell the surroundings of the setting so you can actually feel like you’re there with the characters. The plot was good and flowed nicely. The ending, well, let’s just say it suits the book. Whether it could have been prevented or not, I’m not sure. Probably not. (You’ll see what I mean if you read it)
Don’t pick this up if you’re squeamish. However if you want something dramatic and realistic then read this. It’s actually quite good. It’s a serious read. It’s dramatic, serious, dark, bleak yet beautiful. All at the same time.
Overall I give this a 7 out of 10.