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Rachel-K
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Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

What are your initial impressions of Maria, Anna, and the children? Do your first impressions of these characters hold true as the novel progresses?

How did Maria and her children wind up here? 

 

Can you describe how Anna behaves and do you have any sense of why she seems so depressed? What kind of person is she, and what has happened to her?

 

After Theo's exhausted, hardened entrance--were you surprised at the warmth that this family obviously had for each other? Was Theo the sort of person you were expecting?

 

This family, at times, has barely any necessities--how do they make do? Does your own family have stories of coming through such an impossible struggle?  

 

What demands do these two seasons make on this family? What do they do in Spring and in Summer?

 

At the end of the Summer chapter, the family has lost much of it's crops and property to a fire, and then is hit by a dust storm! How do you think the family is going to survive through the coming chapters? Were you surprised by these early calamities?

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bookloverjb85
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎10-12-2007

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My first impression of Maria is that she would do anything for her family, and this is proven time and time again.  When she "pays" her way to get to her sister-in-law's house, when she works herself raged in the garden, and taking care of her children and Anna's children.

 

Anna behaves as if she has lost a loved one, and she kind of has since her husband left her.  She is reminded of him everyday because of the baby growing inside of her.  Anna seems like a carind and kind person who is trying to cope with the situation she is in.  I believe she relates well with the coyotes because they are wild and out of control.  Anna feels that way because of everything that has happened to her and her family, she feels that she does not have control over anything that happens anymore.

 

 Theo was absolutely the sort of person that I was suspecting.  He tried to take back his own wheat for his family and that is why he was put in jail.  He worked hard to get the field ready to plant and harvest, no matter how much pain he was in.  I believe that this family would do anything for each other.  They can make it through anything and that is why they have been able to get through not having enough food at times.

 

I am not sure how the family is going to make it through the rest of the chapters.  Everything seems to be going well for them and then tragedies strike.  I was definitely surprised by these early tragedies, but I can see how they made it through.  I am not sure what is going to happen next, but hopefully they can get through it.

--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
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DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

The two families arrive at the beginning of the book in different ways. Stefan and Anna have purchased land for their family. Teodore is put in jail for harvesting his wheat, which sends Maria and the children to Anna's house. This gives Teodore a place to come back to because Anna makes sure there will be enough land for all of them.

 

My initial impressions are that Anna is struggling with life to the point that she ignores her children and Maria's family. She is pregnant and doesn't want to be. She is drawn to the wolves and wants to be with them, to go off with them. I think she senses freedom with them, something she doesn't have with her drunken letch of a husband. When Stefan shot the wolf she was trying to touch, it seemed that something broke in her. Now she calls to them every night hoping to run away with them. The baby she is carrying is unwanted and unloved, a product of rape. I wonder what is going to happen here and if she will end up loving this child if it is born.

 

Maria fiercely loves her family, doing anything it takes to keep them together (getting the wagon and wheat back, etc.). She has worked hard to keep all of them, including Anna and her children, alive. She must keep things going to be ready for her husband's return. Teodore returns seemingly broken and disheartened. With the love and support of his family, Teodore plunges into plowing the land and building their home. He is well on the way to recovery. I really love Maria and think she has kept Teodore's memory alive to his children so that they will welcome his return. They do love him!

 

After Teodore's return, we see Maria and the others plant a garden. She never wants her family to be in want again. Teodore returns thinner and without a lot of muscle strength, but his determination pushes him forward. While the plowing was difficult, it was nothing to the utter horror of the fire and then the duststorm.  While I was reading about the fire, I could feel the heat and smell the smoke. It was obvious that they were going to lose some crop, and I was glad that only half was destroyed and the house spared. No one in the family was lost. Then the duststorm hits. Man, how much can one family take? I guess I need to read on. :smileyhappy:

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
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jbnie
Posts: 40
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I liked Maria and her children when I first met them in the story. This is a woman who is devoted to her family, all of it, and does not complain about the hand that life has dealt her. Her husband is in prison, unjustly convicted, her sister in-law is depressed and un-functional. She has had to leave her mother and her country behind to start a new life, which in some ways, as bad as the one she left.

 

Anna is past dysfunctional, she is not functional. She is lucks that Maria is living with her, because without her, her own two children would have starved

 

Theo's entrance was a surprise only on that it came so early in the story. As I continued to read, I realized that  he needed to be introduced when he was. The warmth that his family had for each other and for him, did not surprise me. Love and warmth may be put aside during hard times but they never really disappear.

 

I do not know how they made it through without so much, I doubt that many families today could survive  in the way that they did. This part of the story illustrates the fact that living off the land is not a glamorous way to live and not easy. Anything can destroy crops, food and people  Until the garden came into harvest, the family, especially the children are malnourished. I was surprised that there was no system in place in the government to catch this. In light of how well they were doing when they started to eat regularly, the fire and the dust storm are more awful.

 

To survive these two seasons was remarkable.

 

Jane 

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BookwormVA
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Anna

[ Edited ]

Admin's Note: Please watch the Spoilers. Do not reveal anything about the story that we're not currently discussing in the opening chapters. Thank you.

 

Hi,

 

I'm so glad you posed those questions about the characters.  Particulary Anna.  I thought this character couldn't have been better described by Mitchell because I had such a negative reaction to Anna.  I would love to have sympathy for her but I can't summon it.  Her vanity led her to choose her husband and while she got a raw deal, she wallowed in her unfortunate choice instead of trying to deal with the situation.  She was depressed, but I felt that she allowed herself to sink into that depression willingly rather that some kind of chemical imbalance that she was afflicted with.  That would change my feelings entirely. 

 

Rather, I saw her as the counterpoint to Maria.  Maria was loyal, hopeful, caring, strong, and selfless.  Those are the qualities that enable her and her children to be survivors.  Anna was disloyal, pathetic, weak and selfish. 

Message Edited by PaulH on 08-03-2009 11:27 AM
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KathyS
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Re: Anna

BookwormVA,

 

You might want to edit your post, or write Spoiler in the Message Subject line.  It's too soon to give this much of the story away.

 

Thanks,

 

Kathy S.

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ssizemore
Posts: 70
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My comment at this point is of a general nature.  Ms. Mitchell's use of the present tense in narration seems to make the characters and events spring to life.   Although we know that all of this is happening in the past, the immediacy of the narration gives me a need to find out what will happen next.

The characters are vividly drawn.  We can sense the rather hard nature of some them, a nature that has been created by a life of injustice and diffculty brought on by a harsh climate.  The living conditions are also vividly described (and the pictures helped too!).  So far, we are aware of the terrible injustice done to Theo and wonder about his ability to speak for homself in a new world.  The language barrier must have added to his situation and the false imprisonment.  The reader has to feel sympathy for a family who left a terrible situation to make a better life, only to meet hardships and sorrow.  Inspite of this, the family endures, overcoming hunger and cold, due to the strength of the women in the story.  It reminds me of how many others faced similar circumstances to survive in the New World over generations.

The descriptions of the wheat field and the fire were heartrending.  The helplessness in the face of the elements was so clearly described that I found myself reading faster to see what would happen to the family.

I read only the first section to prepare for this week, but I am looking forward to seeing what's next for these families.

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dhaupt
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My first impression (which does not change) is that Maria is the strong one the protector of not only her children, but Anna's children as well. Anna is a damaged and lost soul who wants to forget Stephan and run with the coyotes.

Maria and her children wind up here because of Teodor's imprisonment.

My impression of Anna is that she was coddled as a child and was full of herself as a young woman and now is unhappy that life didn't turn out the way she planned. She is not a strong person. She's depressed and unhappy because of Stephan's unfaithfulness and his cruelty not only of her but when he was a soldier before.

I was truly surprised by how Teodor's family reacted to his return and was pleasantly surprised by his love of his family also.

This family has made me feel incredibly fortunate in my own situation, when my family came to the US from Germany they settled in St. Louis which was not a NYC but it was still considered a city so no they didn't suffer the elements like these settlers did. I guess any one who settled the wilderness could be compared to this family.

 

The spring season was for clearing, planting and to start to build a new home for the family. The summer was for harvesting the fresh veggies and preserving them for the upcoming months, it's also for continued planting of crops started late by Teodor's late arrival back at home.

 

I'm hoping that surviving through these disasters the family will begin to recoup what they lost and make a new start, but knowing the extreme hardships of the dustbowl era I have an ominous feeling. 

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Tarri
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

[ Edited ]

What are your initial impressions of Maria, Anna, and the children? Do your first impressions of these characters hold true as the novel progresses?

How did Maria and her children wind up here? 

 

Maria is a strong woman who can survive in any circumstance that confronts her.  She is a survivor and a doer, not content to let life pass her by.  

 

Anna, on the other hand, is out of her element in the country and does not have the fortitude to survive alone in the wild.  She wants to be free (befriending the coyotes is a perfect way to describe her feelings), but is bound by the choices she made in the past.  

 

Can you describe how Anna behaves and do you have any sense of why she seems so depressed? What kind of person is she, and what has happened to her?

 

Anna should never have left the safety of the city.  She is out of her element and could not survive without someone to watch over her.  At first her husband took care of everything, then her sister-in-law took over running the farm.  She has two children and doesn't connect with either, although she seems a little closer to her son.  

 

After Theo's exhausted, hardened entrance--were you surprised at the warmth that this family obviously had for each other? Was Theo the sort of person you were expecting?

 

No, I wasn't surprised at the warmth or at the sort of person he appears to be in the beginning chapters.   Theo is a hard man to know, but he is a hard worker and tries so hard to make life easier for all of them.   He is a survivor and believes that everyone can have a better life, if they work hard.

 

This family, at times, has barely any necessities--how do they make do? Does your own family have stories of coming through such an impossible struggle?  

 

This story is so real to me partly because my mother's family just barely scraped through during this period of time.  My grandfather left the family when my mother was born (1928) and everyone in the family had to work to make sure they survived.

 

At the end of the Summer chapter, the family has lost much of it's crops and property to a fire, and then is hit by a dust storm! How do you think the family is going to survive through the coming chapters? Were you surprised by these early calamities?

 

I think what surprises me the most about surviving these calamities is that the people didn't just give up and move away.  I cannot imagine the stresses that awaited people on a daily basis, during this period of time.  

 

 


 

Message Edited by Tarri on 08-03-2009 10:04 AM
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kpatton
Posts: 206
Registered: ‎11-27-2006

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer


jbnie wrote:

I liked Maria and her children when I first met them in the story. This is a woman who is devoted to her family, all of it, and does not complain about the hand that life has dealt her. Her husband is in prison, unjustly convicted, her sister in-law is depressed and un-functional. She has had to leave her mother and her country behind to start a new life, which in some ways, as bad as the one she left.

 

Anna is past dysfunctional, she is not functional. She is lucks that Maria is living with her, because without her, her own two children would have starved

 

Theo's entrance was a surprise only on that it came so early in the story. As I continued to read, I realized that  he needed to be introduced when he was. The warmth that his family had for each other and for him, did not surprise me. Love and warmth may be put aside during hard times but they never really disappear.

 

I do not know how they made it through without so much, I doubt that many families today could survive  in the way that they did. This part of the story illustrates the fact that living off the land is not a glamorous way to live and not easy. Anything can destroy crops, food and people  Until the garden came into harvest, the family, especially the children are malnourished. I was surprised that there was no system in place in the government to catch this. In light of how well they were doing when they started to eat regularly, the fire and the dust storm are more awful.

 

To survive these two seasons was remarkable.

 

Jane 


Jane, This is so well-stated

 

I have read other books that tell stories of early farming in the prairie states and again the story of living day to day and facing all types of disasters is very common.

 

I am interested in the way Ms. Mitchell has divided the book into sections based on seasons of the yearSo far we have read spring and summerIn many ways the lives of Maria and Theodor parallel the seasonsTheodor returns (spring) and begins to resume his life with his family- gaining strength, creating a new crop and beginning the building of a new home (summer).  Maria is planting a garden to feed her family, she becomes pregnant (spring) and her family moves into their new home (summer).

 

I am a little concerned if this is true what Fall and especially Winter holds for them.

 

Kathy

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dragonchica
Posts: 88
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I could tell from the very beginning that Maria's family has a very strong foundation.  From the moment Theo steps on the mouse and Petro stares in fear while 5 year old Ivan grabs a gun, you can tell they've been raised differently.  Anna behaves like someone who expected so much more out of life than she received.  But instead of becoming stronger and working hard to get what she wants, she rather pity herself; which is horrible considering that she has children. Even when she found out about Lesya's leg, instead of behaving life an adult, she acted life a spoiled child who's doll has a chip in it.  Maria on the other hand always put her family first.  The fact that she was able to take care of both her children and Anna's, and even Anna herself, without her husband is simply amazing.  Two women at opposite ends of the spectrum, one incredibly strong, and one who really couldn't be any weaker.

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Ryan_G
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I'm just now getting started on the book (on page 4).  Hopefully I can get caught up and post later.
"I am half sick of shadows" The Lady of Shalott

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bartzturkeymom
Posts: 38
Registered: ‎07-06-2009

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

Can you describe how Anna behaves and do you have any sense of why she seems so depressed? What kind of person is she, and what has happened to her?

 

I think Anna is a very tortured soul. Her lot in life is definitely more than she can deal with: an abusive husband, crippled daughter, violent, vindictive, blaming and spiteful son. How can she bring another life into this wretched prison? She has sunk beyond depression into avoidance, self-loathing, resignation and delusion. That she relates to the mourning coyotes is almost natural. In her madness, she wants to howl as they do. She is probably one of the most interesting characters to contemplate. I worried what she would do throughout the story.

 

Her choice of marrying Stefan to get her above her station in life, is a decision she rues every day. He appeared to have the city life she wanted, but she only saw the superficial and as soon as he was on the wrong side politically, his nasty inner nature roared forth. Now her life is far worse than the farm she grew up on and she still doesn't have the city life she craved, though Stefan seems to get a little piece of that for himself. That he dangles his transgressions in front of her must rankle even more.

 

Anna may have been strong at one time, but she has allowed everything and everyone to beat her down. It is ironic that when she hosts the dinner celebrating the garden bounty, she puts on a smile, covers her pregnancy and welcomes Maria's family in as if she, Anna, were providing for them instead of the other way around. She seems still to be more into appearances than reality.

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. - Edith Wharton
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KathyS
Posts: 6,893
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer


kpatton wrote:

Jane, This is so well-stated

 

I have read other books that tell stories of early farming in the prairie states and again the story of living day to day and facing all types of disasters is very common.

 

I am interested in the way Ms. Mitchell has divided the book into sections based on seasons of the yearSo far we have read spring and summerIn many ways the lives of Maria and Theodor parallel the seasonsTheodor returns (spring) and begins to resume his life with his family- gaining strength, creating a new crop and beginning the building of a new home (summer).  Maria is planting a garden to feed her family, she becomes pregnant (spring) and her family moves into their new home (summer).

 

I am a little concerned if this is true what Fall and especially Winter holds for them.

 

Kathy


Kathy,

 

Showing the seasons, as compared to what the family was going through, is definately insightful.  It does make you wonder what the furture seasons will hold for them, doesn't it?  I also wondered why there were no chapter numbers or titles in this novel....The absense of them is as barren as this harsh land and harsh life.

 

Kathy S.

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Bonnie824
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer


dragonchica wrote:

I could tell from the very beginning that Maria's family has a very strong foundation.  From the moment Theo steps on the mouse and Petro stares in fear while 5 year old Ivan grabs a gun, you can tell they've been raised differently.  Anna behaves like someone who expected so much more out of life than she received.  But instead of becoming stronger and working hard to get what she wants, she rather pity herself; which is horrible considering that she has children. Even when she found out about Lesya's leg, instead of behaving life an adult, she acted life a spoiled child who's doll has a chip in it.  Maria on the other hand always put her family first.  The fact that she was able to take care of both her children and Anna's, and even Anna herself, without her husband is simply amazing.  Two women at opposite ends of the spectrum, one incredibly strong, and one who really couldn't be any weaker.


 

I felt the same way. Maria and her family actually had a harder past, yet kept functioning. Teodor, despite being weak and broken and having way more reason to be damaged than his sister, went right to work the minute he could stand, and paid attention to his wife and children. They put each other and their children ahead of their own selves. Stefan was horrible from the get go, Anna made a poor choice in husbands then made no attempt to be a good mother that I could see.

 

Bonnie

 

 

 

 

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Plumberswife
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My first impressions of this book are of strong families dedicated to each other and their land shares. Maria and Anna seem to bear similarities to those women from my own families ancestry. I feel that they are both very strong women, even Anna with what I would think is post traumatic stress disorder that has triggered depression is able to make a difference in the lives of the families she is connected to.

I was not surprised that Theo was really a loving person, I think he was imprisoned as were many men at that time in history. His stamina allowed him to survive and still be proud, returning to join and take care of his family.

As for how the families will overcome the devastating loss of crops, property and the dust storms I feel that they will carry on as they have. Determined to make the most of what every they have and what ever is available to them using their brawn and the power of prayer.

I love the descriptiveness of this book and how it brings me along in the journey of this family

Thanks for letting me be part of this first look!

D

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JaneM
Posts: 152
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I thought the children, Anna and Maria are quickly captured in just a few sentences – a tight knit family unit with many individuals.  “Anna loved the vastness and the darkness”, preferring night to day.  “Maria organized her children” to help with the garden, using each one’s talents to the maximum.  As time passes the impressions seem cemented with more and more examples of their initial characteristics.

 

Anna struggles with the bad youthful decision she made to marry Stefan in the first place.  After he rapes her she is pushed over the edge almost to madness to rid herself of the unwanted pregnancy.  It seems the only one she can connect with is the coyote on whom she places all her trust and caring.  She feeds the coyote whereas she cannot feed her own children.

 

My initial reaction to Theo was of a good, righteous man who fought against the system and paid the price of incarceration.  He is very quiet and internalizes too much, seldom able to express himself to his wife or children – but isn’t that like so many men?

 

There is so little in material possessions that it is hard for us who might be living in more affluent times to even comprehend the type of “making do” that families coped with.   We all have stories from our grandparents or parents of living in the Depression, but the exact details were often glossed over.   I know in the early 1930’s my dad and uncle built a small boat from scrap lumber that they found, and sold shares in the boat to their friends in exchange for money to buy more supplies.  Once the boat was built, all of the “owners” took turns using it.  Children are very resourceful in creating fun with no toys.

 

I was unprepared for the double hit of fire and dust storm.  The summer bounty lulled us into a false sense of security that life would be changing around for the struggling families, only to find that they would need to continue to fight to survive.  I know the first page of the book referred to the fact that “within three years, this farm will be foreclosed” but I really didn’t expect the fire.  And what strong writing Shandi did during this section.  I could feel the heat and wanted to jump into the river with the family.  Beautifully written.

Jane M.
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Amanda-Louise
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

Okay - so I'm up north and have limited use of a computerBasically I'm at the local coffee shop with two small kids, so I'm going to type my thoughts quickly and catch up when I get home.

 

PHOTO

 

This is a fabulous telling of a photoI could see it perfectlyAs I begin UTUS, I am staying in my family cottage in northern (but not too northern) OntarioIt was built in the 1900s, has been untouched since (should be declared either a heritage site or condemned) and the walls are full of photos of shockingly similar description!

 

 

SPRING

 

First few pages - boys playing with the barn cats and the return of the father seems to read like a movie scriptI could totally see that as the first scenes of a movie exactly as written.

Shandi's descriptions are so vivid that I could even hear the boot crush the suffering mouse.

 

The father also initially presents as very ambiguousHis return is met with border-line horror, however he doesn't wish the insignificant mouse to suffer.

 

The father is attempting, awkwardly to take back his place in the houseHe smokes the stash saved for him, he helps himself to a second bowl of food, but then he is referred to as an 'imposter'.  I find this a surprising term to useImposter - imposeIs that how it's meantHe is imposing himself upon this family that has grown without himImposter as I was originally thinking - pretending to be something/someone you are not - doesn't really fit.  

 

Who sold Teodor the land for $10, and then took it all back completely unfairlyWas this an initiative of the Canadian governmentIf so, how embarrassing!

 

Anna is an interesting and dramatic characterI find this book to be so lonely. Each character, although living atop each other for survival is so isolated.

 

On page 11, Maria is preparing Teodor's bath.  "She has no soap, no towels."  However, on page 25, Teodor is shaving.   "He fills the basin with warm water and lathers up the soap."  Is this a mistakeOr, was it his soap and it's been left to sit for two years like the tobacco while the family does without?

 

The outhouse musings from the 5 year old are sad and also funny in a way.

 

What's up with Anna and the coyotesOnce she goes inside the coyotes sound far off againIs she attracting themFeeding themMore?

 

Teodor is coming across as such a nice guy - he really cares about his children and his family in generalI hope I'm not disappointed in him.

 

Spring is a time of renewal, cleansingIt was a time that Teodor restored his place in his family, renewed his relationship with his childrenHe had a throughout cleansing from his time in the jailAnna had a cleansing ritual at the end with her cathartic scarecrow.  

 

It's telling that spring and summer are the shortest chapters since in Canada they are also the shortest (painfully, fleeting) seasons.

 

Why do you think Teodor faces his boots toward the door each night before he goes to sleep?

 

SUMMER

I have less to say about this as I was so engrossed in the story that I failed to stop and ponder and take notes.

 

Did anyone try the recipeI'm rather keen to.

 

Interesting that neither Anna nor Teodor join in the prayer.

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JaneM
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts


Amanda-Louise wrote:

 

Why do you think Teodor faces his boots toward the door each night before he goes to sleep?

 

SUMMER

I have less to say about this as I was so engrossed in the story that I failed to stop and ponder and take notes.

 

Did anyone try the recipeI'm rather keen to.

 

Interesting that neither Anna nor Teodor join in the prayer.


I noticed also about the boots facing the door.  I think it's for two reasons:  to be sure that he has everything ready to start his work day, and also to be prepared for any escape that might be necessary as he has learned that the situation can change instantly.

 

I'm also interesting in trying the recipe.  I had some fabulous Borscht in Toronto and keep looking for the best recipe.  This might be it. 

 

I think Teodor has lost his faith in organized religion while in prison.  When everyone else goes to church, he works on his house and it says on p. 72 "This is his church."

 

Jane M 

Jane M.
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maude40
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

How sad to see a government pursue people to come to their country and then take the land away just 3 weeks before a harvest is finally possible. Greed is always the determining factor, it seems. An almost 2 year prison sentence for "stealing" your own grain is over the top. It's a wonder people survive mentally and physically in these harsh conditions of life. As in "The Grapes of Wrath" it's the woman who is the strong member of the family. Maria is coming across as a woman of great strength. Yvonne