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booksJT
Posts: 108
Registered: ‎11-24-2008
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My first impression of Maria is that she is selfless. She is more concerned about everyone else's welfare first. She makes sure everyone else is taken care before she takes care of her needs.

 

Anna has lost the most important person in her life. When her husband left she became distraught. Her unborn child is a constant reminder of the love they once shared together. Anna feels close to the coyote because her life is out of control just like the coyote's life. They both  have no control of what is happening to them.

 

Theo is man with a lot of self esteem. He is willing to work and do whatever is necessary to help his wife and kids and sister. Although they are struggling to make ends meet Theo knows  there will be better days ahead. 

 

The families managed to sell some their groups at the market. Once Theo returned there was the wheat to sell. 

 

I don't know how they will make it after the fire and mice attacking the grain. But Theo will find the way to scrape something together to sell. He has regained all his strength back so if he has to work twice as hard he will. With his children by his side he will replant his crops and start all over again. 

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heppster
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎07-01-2009

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My first impression of Maria is that she is a tough woman who is willing to do anything for her family.  She is extremely resourceful, hardworking, patient, loving and knows how to run a household.  She loves her family so much and makes the most of every minute of every day.  Anna on the other hand is the opposite. She seems withdrawn from her family, kind of resentful of her situation and lazy.  She is a dreamer who lives in the past and has many regrets.  She is a battered wife so I'm sure that has a lot to do with her present personality traits.

 

Theo was exactly the kind of person I was expecting.  He was quiet, patient, hardworking, knowledgeable and honest.  He was one of those men that don't say much but you better listen when they do have something to say.

 

I am not sure how they made it through the time Theo was gone.  I suppose they lived off the land the best they could-collecting berries or fruit that was in season and canning them for the winter.  I'm sure Maria planted as much as she could too.  I'm sure that's why all the kids were so skinny.  Fortunately, my family does not have any stories like this.  If my nanny was still alive, i'm sure she would have some since she lived a hard life here after she came from Sicily.

 

I was surprised by the stories of fire and dust and I really felt for them.  I was just so happy Theo made it out alive.  There were several times I though people were not going to make it but i'm happy they did.  I was glad they still had enough crops to make some sort of profit that year but it sure showed me how hard they work and how easily it can be destroyed.

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JaneM
Posts: 152
Registered: ‎02-01-2008

Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

One thing I noticed in the first sections was the very frequent use of detailed numbers.  The families could have 160 acres for $10, and spent 13 days in steerage.  Theo counts the steps from his prison cell to the dirt yard and counts time by steps “one hundred and eighty-six thousand steps”.  His clothes are 3 sizes too large and he tightens the belt five extra notches. At the fire Theo used a 20’ fire break rather than 40’.  They put water barrels every 20’.  “Of the six acres of wheat, three were lost.  Also lost were seven barrels, two pots, three blankets, a harness, two rakes, one shove, one ax, one chicken coop, six chickens, one rooster and a child’s shoe.”  The temperature is often mentioned – in the house, or outside during the fire.  I also find it interesting that the temp is stated in Fahrenheit since Canada uses a Celsius scale.   

 

In any case, I find the number references fascinating and it makes me think of how little these people have in their lives, so that every acre, every shoe, every ax is equally important.

 

Jane M
Jane M.
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kpatton
Posts: 206
Registered: ‎11-27-2006
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer


Plumberswife wrote:

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


I appreciate your comments about what will these two families do next.  I also see very few options for them except to try and go on.  If Teodor and Maria don't try to keep and harvest the crop they have, what is their choice?  To lose themselves to reality as Anna has?

Kathy

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Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

Amanda-Louise,

You asked about the boots. I think it has to do with his prior confinement and the notion that any time you need to be ready. To escape. To be taken somewhere else. I have talked to a Vietnamese gentleman - a poet - who described this "readiness" syndrome and he told details of this constant awareness. Even in your sleep you train yourself to have instant comprehension of the situation.

 

When I was a kid in Germany during WWII we slept in our clothes and sat our shoes next to the door, in case we had to go to the bomb shelter. 

 

BTW, I had a rather different "Canadian experience" from you, spending five days in Victoria, during a record setting heat wave, reading UTUS in my hotel room with a fan blowing in my face at night and walking Butchart Gardens in the daytime.


Amanda-Louise wrote:

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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kpatton
Posts: 206
Registered: ‎11-27-2006
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

Amanda-Louise,
I am impressed that in a coffee shop with two small children you are able to be so insightful.
I hadn't thought abut it, but I appreciate your comments about each of the main characters being so lonely even though they live atop one another.
I also wondered about the meaning behind Anna creating the scarecrow.  Whether it was a way for her to release some of her anger or was there more?
I'm looking forward to other posts to see what other readers think about Teodor always pointing his boots toward the door.  My thought is that he wants to be prepared and is always anticipating danger.
This ability to hear other's thoughts and interpretations is what I so much enjoy about the FL group.
Kathy

Amanda-Louise wrote:

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.


 

Inspired Contributor
kittykat59
Posts: 44
Registered: ‎12-08-2008

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Maria and her children is Survival. She is like a lioness with her cubs. She would do anything for their survival. Anna is a different story. She is broken.

 

Anna really interests me. She is broken, in mind body and soul. She makes a scarecrow with her wedding sorochka and slashes it. The slashing of her wedding sorochka is a symbolism of the death of her marriage and the death of the happy life she thought she should had have with Stefan. She wants to forget Stefan, his cruelty, his unfaithfulness, him as a whole. She wants to be the person she was before she married him, fearless and headstrong. But she is

 not.

 

I was not surprised with the warmth the family had for one another because they were a family unit. The children accept their father's return with apprehension and love.

 

I'm enjoying this book immensely. Can't wait to get back to it.

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Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

Jane,

It doesn't surprise me at all that Teodor counts steps. Comes with boredom; keeps him from going insane. Sometimes when I am worried about something I count; I count my steps, count laps in the pool, count cars coming by, anything to keep my mind off the real thing. A displacement activity I guess. I have heard a prisoner of war say that he avoided boredom by writing poetry in his head, repeated each stanza many times to remember the words without having the ability to write them down. It paid off in the long run. He published a book of poetry and many of us went to hear him read in our library.


JaneM wrote:
One thing I noticed in the first sections was the very frequent use of detailed numbers.  The families could have 160 acres for $10, and spent 13 days in steerage.  Theo counts the steps from his prison cell to the dirt yard and counts time by steps “one hundred and eighty-six thousand steps”.  His clothes are 3 sizes too large and he tightens the belt five extra notches. At the fire Theo used a 20’ fire break rather than 40’.  They put water barrels every 20’.  “Of the six acres of wheat, three were lost.  Also lost were seven barrels, two pots, three blankets, a harness, two rakes, one shove, one ax, one chicken coop, six chickens, one rooster and a child’s shoe.”  The temperature is often mentioned – in the house, or outside during the fire.  I also find it interesting that the temp is stated in Fahrenheit since Canada uses a Celsius scale.   

 

In any case, I find the number references fascinating and it makes me think of how little these people have in their lives, so that every acre, every shoe, every ax is equally important.

 

Jane M

 

Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

My first impression is that of a family that is very brave and strong. They were able to pick up and leave their native country with little more than the clothes on their backs. Then they resettle in a strange land and still manage to keep on going regardless of what life threw at them!

No matter the lemons, Maria finds a way to make lemonade, even if the process is bitter tasting. Anna, on the other hand, falls into a state of despair. She is not well equipped to fight the ravages inflicted upon her by her husband. When she fails in her attempt to fight him off, she suffers in silence instead of enlisting the help of her family. Her children seem to be raising themselves and without their aunt would live a life of total deprivation, especially after the rape scene takes place. Anna is devastated by the pregnancy that ensues. She is happiest when Stefan is out of the picture but he comes back like a bad dream.
I expected Theo to be the strong, silent type because otherwise he couldn't survive the seemingly unfair imprisonment and awful treatment he had to face. Life throws so many disappointments at him and yet he keeps on going.

Stefan is a selfish brute who is worthless and causes nothing but hardship and pain to those around him. He is one of those characters I hope is wholly made up from cloth and not based on any family history of the author's.

The family works together as one, in order to survive. Cooperation is evident in their successful efforts and sadly, even their unsuccessful ones. The hardships keep coming and the losses keep mounting but still, they don't give up. 

The multitude of calamities that struck this family made me wonder how they could possibly keep on going. It is hard to keep rebuilding when you are constantly beaten down by adversity. I think, if humanly possible, Maria will manage. I don't know about Anna, and Teodor seems to quite possibly be at a breaking point. Some of the children, too, seem to be weakening in their resolve. Lesya, on the other hand, whom you might expect to be the weakest, appears to have the strongest resolve. I will have to read on to find out what happens, though. The opening page tells me that the hardships will worsen and if this story has any relationship to a true family secret, as the author intimated in her introduction, I hope that it comes out better than I fear.

Since Lesya, Petro, Anna, Stefan and the babies on their way, are not in the photograph, I fear for their lives from the foreshadowing of the opening page.

 
 

 

 

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ethel55
Posts: 31
Registered: ‎04-11-2008
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I, too, see Maria as the glue that may  hold this family together.  She's definitely old school, wanting the kids to use Ukranian at home and stumbling over what little English she knows--I enjoyed her thought about how her Ukranian sounded much more beautiful.

 

Anna seems beyond depressed in the beginning--ignoring her children, unable to even feed the lunch most days from the looks of things.  Also very telling the clothing she uses on the scarecrow.

 

I'm only partway into Summer, but I thought their big summer meal, specifically listed at June 14 was interesting.  This is Alberta--I even goggled their hardiness zones there (mostly 2 and 3).  Don't know if there were zones back in '38, but I'm sure farmers were still well aware of frost dates and such.  It kind of tripped me up a bit, the timing of all that--but makes it interesting. 

Frequent Contributor
Sassy398
Posts: 56
Registered: ‎11-03-2008

Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

Under This Unbroken Sky is a novel that holds many feelings. While reading this novel it

can really be associated to real life in general. It makes one stop and think, how lucky we

are, grant most of with the way the world is now everyone is going thru some types of

struggles. My hats off to Shandi Mitchell, because maybe someone who reads this book

just might appreciate their life that much more. After what these two families have gone

thru to get a fresh start and then to have to face the devistation of the loss of some of

there hard labor due to the fire ect, and still carry on, really shows what people can do

to maintain themselves if they put their minds and efforts to get thru in life.

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Deltadawn
Posts: 311
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

Great in depth analysis! I agree completely.

Anna is extremely depressed and unable to care for her family (or herself that matter).

Maria's fierce love for her husband, children & Anna & her children is what has held the family together. Teodore's character evolves exactly as I thought it would. He is a man of character, strength & is filled with love for his family - just like his wife. It was so wonderful to see how the children related to him after his 3 days of sleep & a bath and a shave.(especially his youngest son).

 

This novel is so poetically and beautifully writtenThe characters & their emotions are so visible and tangible.(I don't know if that makes sense, but what I mean, I guess is that they are so real.)

 

I too was relieved that although the fire was devastating, it destroyed only part of their crop, and spared the house and all the humans.

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kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

When I first received this book, I was only going to glance at the first few pages but it so engrossed me I read fifty first sitting. It is so well written that you totally get absorbed in to it.

 

Maria is the definitely the stand up character in this novel. All her many vices are used in the caring and nuturing her family. The word selfish does not even faintly apply to Maria what so ever.

 

Anna is definitely a flop of a character that rarely finds peace in her life or if she ever does, it would probably be a miracle. Weak understates Anna's character completely. I read somewhere that someone wrote that maybe she was spoiled growing up and not having to bare hardships which could be true. Also she could have had bullying parents and never had much strength to start out this tragic life as an adult.  And giving birth could have sustained depression in her through the years since they knew so little about post partum depression in the time this was happening.

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aprilh
Posts: 424
Registered: ‎09-25-2008
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts


Amanda-Louise wrote:

 

 

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 recipe?  I'm rather keen to.

 

Interesting that neither Anna nor Teodor join in the prayer.


I was wondering the same thing about Teodor's boots always having to face the door. He went to great lengths to clean his shoes and lace them back up every night and then always made sure they faced toward the door before he went to sleep. I assumed this was because he could be ready for anything that occurred during the night. In case of some sort of emergency, his boots would be ready and waiting for him as he ran out the door.

 

As for Anna and Teodor not joining in the prayer, I found this very interesting. Were they not very religious as children and feel uncomfortable with praying, or have they lost their faith in God? Maria seems very religious. She thanks God for everything she has no matter how small it may seem. She and the children travel eight miles to attend Sunday church. I am wondering if later on Teodor not attending church services with his family will cause a rift between him and Maria.

April
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DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters - my thoughts

We haven't tried the recipe yet, but plan to. :smileyhappy:


Amanda-Louise wrote:

Did anyone try the recipeI'm rather keen to.

 


 

 

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
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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nfam
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

Maria is a very strong character. In contrast, the siblings Teodor and Anna seem almost like ghosts. Maria holds the family together. The boys, obviously, want to like and be like their father, but as the scene with Myron shows, Teodor is not able to have a close relationship with his children. 

 

Anna is, not so much as enigma, as a very disturbed person. I suspect that the trouble has to do with the matrimonial choices she made long ago. I also suspect that there is some jealousy for Maria, although that hasn't come out yet.

 

My major problem with these chapters is that the story is so much Maria's story and, as far as I can see, the tragedy is all in Anna and Teodor's character. I'll be interested to see how it works out. 

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pen21
Posts: 3,648
Registered: ‎03-23-2009
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I liked how the families worked together in their own dysfunctional way.

Anna is struggling caring for herself and her family. But Anna made sure that Teodor had land next to hers and took Teordor's family in while he was in prison. Myron takes on the chores of the father when he was gone. The children from both families all work to help. Maria is definitely the mother figure for both families in this part of the book. Especially a mother to Lesya, encouraging her to participate in the daily chores of their lives.

Some characters added more to the dysfuntion of the families, like Anna. But there was support between the families, maybe just not as much as could have been.

pen21

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BooksRPam
Posts: 39
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I have stayed within the parameters of the reading schedule, so I have not had the opportunity to read Fall going forward.  However, it's apparent that Shandi's writing is filled with metaphors and double-entendres in her phrasing.

 

While Spring and Summer usually are representative of new life, second chances, warmth, and hope, Shandi allows the family's homecoming happiness to be shortlived with the tragedies that strike.  I shudder now to think what lies ahead with Fall and Winter, which usually are representative of death, cold, and hopelessness.

Pam
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ehjulstrom
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

I had the same feelings about the seasons. Everything seems linked - the seasons, the characters, and their fortunes. I'm looking forward to seeing if this continues through the rest of the story.
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emmagrace
Posts: 162
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Early Chapters: Spring and Summer

Wow! Awesome novel! This was not what I was expecting!!

 

My initial impressions of Maria and the children are that they are exceptional people. Their everyday lives are a struggle and yet they work hard together to make ends meet. I was very impressed by Lesya. Lesya has a crippled foot and has to deal with her mother's depression, but she works hard and acts as if nothing is wrong with her foot. She is a very strong young lady. Anna is a very sad and distant person and I am very concerned about the way she regards her children. She seems to blame them for things that could possibly not be their faults like existing for example.

 

Maria and her children came to live with Anna because Teodor was imprisoned and it was their only hope for survival.

 

Anna has distanced herself from everyone because she is so depressed. Her husband seemed to rape her on several occasions and it seems that she became pregnant with her children from these assaults. I feel like she, at least partly, blames the children for this. I think she wants to free herself from all of these "burdens".

 

I was certainly surprised at the warmth that the family had for each other! I was not expecting Teodore to be so kind and loving. He clearly loves his family and he works very hard for them. I suppose I was expecting some mean hardened criminal.

 

The family makes do by growing their own food and selling whatever they can to get by. I think it is sheer will and determination that helps this family to overcome everything that has come at them so far.

 

After the calamities in Spring and Summer, I think the family will do what it has always seemed to do - work harder to overcome everything that life has thrown at them.