08-08-2009 11:03 AM
I loved the way you expressed the story JeniferKAllison! I love that you used "we" because that is how I felt, that I was so invested in the story that I was a part of it.
"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
08-08-2009 11:10 AM
Welcome to the discussion Claire!
I am absolutely transported to a different time and place. I mentioned in another post that I was actually at my boyfriend's baseball game one day and I almost got hit by a baseball because I had been transported to the garden with Maria and the children. I love when I read a book and I completely forget where I am, this shows me that the author has done an incredible job with the written word!
"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
08-08-2009 11:36 AM
Hello Claire - welcome to the discussion - we're very lucky to have you a part of it.
To answer your questions: A resounding YES!
I fell in love with Theo for his hard work and wanted to be Maria with all her strength. I was proud of Lesya. I tolerated and occasionally wanted to slap Sofia. Dania and Myron make me smile and hope my children will want to be like me.
I was there in the house, on the bed, while Theo drank with the soldiers. I was there, looking into his eyes when he came 'home'. I cried when I saw Lesya laying there on the bed, as her mother pushed her away the night she was born and I hated Anna in that moment. Yet when she first cut Stefan with the knife, I cheered. The vast Canadian frontier was my home throughout this story. I loved the land, hated the government, prayed for rain (but not too much), threw water on the fire, cut the crop, and counted the money. I loved my family and was so thankful for my own bed. I was angry, frustrated, blissfully happy, secure, and scared each day, from Spring to Winter.
The story came alive as I read and I know each person and place intimately now, and will remember each of them for a long time to come, I am sure of it.
08-08-2009 01:39 PM
Maria ended up on Anna's land because of Teodor's imprisonment. She made the ultimate sacrifice to keep her children from starving by trading herself for the wheat that had been confiscated from her family. She made it through, though, and kept her family safe and alive until Teodor's return.
Anna is dealing with her own demons - especially her roving husband. She has come to realize what he really is and is unable to truly escape him even though he is gone. She is tied down by her children and now has another child on the way that she is desperate to get rid of. This child will only chain her down even further to the lifestyle she does not want to be a part of. When she sees her brother Teodor's house being built we get a glimpse of her hopelessness and viewpoint of the world.
Teodor is exactly what I expected - hardworking and damaged from his imprisonment. He is intent on taking care of his family and is again in complete contrast with his sister Anna's husband. There seems to be a lot of polar opposites when it comes to the characters each playing off each other.
The families survive because they work together and they live minimally. They are sharing land and resources and this allows them to survive until Teodor's return.
I could feel the tension as I read and knew that something bad was coming. It all seemed to be coming together too perfectly. I am sure there is much more to come. So far the story is heart wrenching and the characters are so alive and vibrant in my mind. This keeps me invested in their future and what is going to happen to them.
08-08-2009 03:42 PM
Hi Claire, and welcome to the discussion!
My answer to both of your questions is a loud and resounding YES. I think the author did an excellent job making the characters believable, and the setting and story so real. I was completely transported back to 1930s Canada while I read this book. I will be looking forward to reading any future books Ms.Mitchell may write.
08-08-2009 04:23 PM
What are your initial impressions of Maria, Anna, and the children? Do your first impressions of these characters hold true as the novel progresses?
Maria is a women who will do anything to hold her family together. She puts the children first. She knows who she is and were she came from. She also seems a bit stubborn, although I think she needs to be. Her children seem well rounded despite that hardships they've faced. Anna on the other hand is the opposite. She doesn't behave like a mother would. She doesn't seem to care for either of her children at all. She also doesn't seem to care about herself.
How did Maria and her children wind up here?
I think it was the only place for them to go when Theo was in prison. I think the deal between Theo and Anna was also made before he went away.
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 her life has been taken from her. She had this grand ideas and dreams and nothing has turned out like she planned. She hides from her responsabilities because she doesn't know what else to do.
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?
I wasn't suprised. It fit with what I already knew of the family. And he was about what I was 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?
They make it because they have no choice. Stories like these always make me extremely thankful for what my family has.
What demands do these two seasons make on this family? What do they do in Spring and in Summer?
Spring demanded the planting. Being the wife of a farmer, I can appreciate what father and son had to go through to ready the field by hand. 6 acres to prepare from scratch probably seemed like an almost impossible task. Summer would be just as tough! Constant watering and also watching the plants for bugs and such. I can only imagine.
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?
They will survive. It seems they have a bit more than when Theo was in prison. Not as much as they hopped for.
08-08-2009 04:25 PM
First impressions of Maria is her obvious inner strength and her devotion to her children and her husband (even in his absence) is so obvious. They are her motivation to survive each day. And that is what their existence is...merely survival. Maria must also be strong and supportive of her sister-in-law, Anna. Her strength carries this family. Anna, hmmm, I am not sure. I do not like her as of now. I keep thinking I should feel sorry for her but I do not. Possibly, something will be explained or revealed to change my initial feelings.
I am in love with these children. Their behaviors, the author's descriptions, their interactions with each and their parents is heartwarming. I want to reach out and hug each one.
I believe Anna is depressed because her life did not turn out how she imagined. Her husband is a louse but I do not think she married him for love. She married him thinking he would be successful and provide her with things. Her interactions with her own children break my heart.
I have to admit I wasn't sure about Theo. The harshness of his introduction could have went a completely different direction. I was hopeful the family would prove to be supportive and would rally together to make it through each day.
08-08-2009 05:06 PM
08-08-2009 05:45 PM
Very well said! Katya thought she was doing something good for her family; "saving a piece of Jesus" in case her family needed him and there was no more left. As a child, she did not understand that this is not Jesus. She was just afraid for her family and where they might find Jesus when they needed help. I don't think she is being irreverant. She does not grasp the complete concept and it is probably more than she can understand at her age. She is a little girl who is afraid that when they need help, there may be no where to go.
I am anti-censorship and I am catholic. Neither of these two items came into play when I thought of Katya with the Host. What did come to mind is that she is a child and unable to think abstractly. To her, God is protection and the Host is God, hence saving pieces of Jesus for later. To me, blasphemy is gross irreverance and that is the complete opposite of what Katya is doing. She wants to save Jesus, in case they run out. This alone shows how literal her brain works. It was not meant to insult anything religious, but to show the reaction of a child raised within a religious environment, who believes in God, but just can't grasp the concept of God as anything but literal. Google children's letters to God, you'll see some cute stuff and all of it is extremely literal. It is realistic for someone Katya's age and just further shows the level of character depth Ms Mitchell is able to create. At least that is my take
08-08-2009 07:11 PM
Maria reminds me of most mothers that I know; she pushes through hard times and provides for her family. And she does it very well. Once Teodor was sent to prison she had to assume the role of father and head of the household. Unlike her sister-in-law she is strong-willed and determined to provide her family with the necessities to survive. She loves her family unselfishly, including the children that are not hers and this is another admirable characteristic of her.
Anna's behavior is very strange, it's obvious that she is depressed and I can only assume that it has alot to do with her husband's departure and his cold behavior.
Thus far I truly love Maria and Teodor's family, each person has their own special personality and I am enjoying getting to know them. After the fire and then the dust storm I felt so sorry for Teodor. I imagine that he feels so inadequate after having to spend time in prison for something so senseless and then to make the progress that he made and then to lose some of it to something that can not be controlled must have been defeating for him. Im truly hoping that nothing else will happen to this family.
08-08-2009 08:57 PM
I have only read the introduction and first chapter so far but I find the use of present tense annoying and it detracts from the story. I thought it would be used for the introduction only and when I found the first chapter written this way I was disappointed. Does this bother anyone else? Maybe I'll get used to it as I read on.
I actually find the use of present tense an enhancement to the story. It makes me as though I've been transported to another place entirely. I think it is what makes me feel as though I've been dropped back into my own life when I put the book down.
08-08-2009 09:10 PM
I didn't feel that the series of natural disasters were meant to shock the reader. I think it was meant to show the hardships that this family endured and how well they persevered in spite of these trials. Tragedy doesn't necessarily stop at one occurrence per family, like Mother Nature says "Hmmm, they just had a fire that devastated their crops, so I'd better skip them with the dirt storm and put it down somewhere else instead". I think the idea was to show how this family kept getting up each day and continuing on, regardless of the curves that life threw at them.
I am sorry you were disturbed by my comment. I felt the violence after violence was not a necessary component to the story, but was presented to shock the reader. That is a technique often used in all media forms.
08-08-2009 09:24 PM
That's an extremely heated post. All I can say is "Wow".
Linda10 wrote:I haven't posted anything thus far on this book. I was going to wait until next week, I think it is, when Shandi and her editor will be here. But as long as this topic has been brought up, I might as well say it now.
When Katya spits out Christ, this is not comic nor cute. It is blasphemous. No, I'm not going to rip out anyone's throat here. But I would be amiss if I didn't say anything at all. I'm giving these two posters as well as Shandi the benefit of the doubt, thinking that they don't know any better. Being Catholic (and I know others of you are too), we are taught that the Host is, indeed, the body and blood of Christ. We are taught this in our catechism before we make our First Communion so that we will respect God's body. If Katya is old enough to be receiving Holy Communion, then she's also been taught to respect the Host. This is why I say that I feel that Shandi doesn't know any better or else she would never have put this into her story. At the very least, it's historically incorrect information.
I will even go so far as to ask, even urge, Shandi and her editor to remove these portions before the final printing of the book. In doing so, it would not interfere with the main plot of the story whatsoever. After all, we are the First Lookers. We get to comment on things we don't like as well as what we do like. This is our opportunity to have any changes made. (And I know this has been done in the past. Vivico had a discussion, along with some others, with Lisa See; and Lisa actually did make some changes.)
I know that some (or even a lot) of you are going to scream censorship. I'm prepared to hear that. But there's a huge difference between leaving out, for example, the "F" word and blasphemy. There's a point where people cross the line; and this is one of them.
For those of you who may not understand why my fur is flying, let's use this as an example. Let's say that Katya, instead, drew pictures of the Star of David. Then after every time she drew one, she would then spit on it OR throw it into the fire while laughing OR took it with her to the outhouse so she could use it to "finish up her business." I think there would be an outpouring of outrage.
I know that I'm going to get slammed here for this post. So be it. If one can't stand up for their religious beliefs, then we no longer live in a free society. Tolerance is a two-way street. But I can't, in good conscience, just sit back and say or do nothing. I love God. Like I said, I'm giving Shandi and the posters the benefit of the doubt. But I feel people need to understand how important this truly is. If no one teaches you, then how do you learn?
08-08-2009 09:58 PM
I couldn't have said it any better. Thank you for your eloquence.
Sunltcloud wrote (in part):Yes, Claire-Wachtel, the characters are believable. Time and place surround me. I sit under the unbroken sky.
08-08-2009 10:32 PM
Can I start by saying this is another excellent first look book, it's hard to stop reading, Shandi Mitchell just pulls you into the story almost like you are a member of this family...All the characters have their own personalities so well written you know them in just a few pages. My first impressions of Maria and the children as a tough, tenacious family hasn't changed yet. My heart hurts for Anna's children. I think she is so far from where she pictured her life to be she just wants to run away w/the coyotes.
As for Theo, I had read comparisons to the Grapes of Wrath which interestingly enough both open w/men coming back home from prison.....he reminds me of my grandfather who did not talk much about the depression, but I do know he was riding the rails as a young man (he left home at age 12!) following the harvests as a farm worker. He was a tough proud man and reading this story it's him I see as Theo.
I wasn't surprised at the closeness of the family, with their need to work together in order to survive I guess I expected a level of closeness that allows them to keep going in their harsh circumstances. I find that people can make do w/very little in order to survive, a hard concept for most of us today...
Since I have the whole Grapes of Wrath thing stuck in my head I expected calamities and with Shandi's prologue I prepared for some hard times.
So far I am really enjoying this book and feel a connection to this characters. Thank you Ms Mitchell
08-08-2009 11:05 PM
08-08-2009 11:14 PM