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Rabid_Reader
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

I really like the way that this book started out with the photograph, because it allowed readers to get a glimpse of the family the way an outsider might see them, and then invite us into their home and allow us to to get to know them on a more personal level. 

 

Rabid_Reader

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kpatton
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Well put.

BooksRPam wrote:

The photograph was a perfect "hook" for the book and made me love these people before I even got to know them in the following pages.  Shandi somehow manages to set the mood in literally the first paragraph of this tale, "This will be their only photograph together."  I already felt sad without even knowing what was to come.  The very fact that this photo would be the last successfully set the scene of foreboding and dread, already making the reader ask, "But why?  What happens?" and then the knowledge that "This can't be good."

 

The mood continues with the knowledge that they are posed "in their church best."  They're trying so hard to make this moment special in an obviously hard existence.  As the "photograph intro" goes on, I continue to feel the storm-is-coming mood with the phrase "their eyes lost in shadows."

 

Overall, my first impression was saddened that this family, even though they have so little - no stockings, no winter clothes in which to pose in four inches of snow, only the baby is "round and fat" - are actually happy in this snapshot in time.  "This family takes a deep breath and smiles."  They're strong and together and happy, and the fact that Shandi starts off the book with letting us in on what was to come made me want to read more.


 

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kpatton
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions


fordmg wrote:

SapphicKris wrote:
I liked the description of the photograph at the beginning of the book, but didn't let it influence my opinion of the story to come at all. In fact, once I started reading the story and getting connected to the characters I forgot about the photograph description. The storytelling is so good, I find myself immersed in the characters as they are in the moment. I do find myself constantly wanting to read just one more section to see what happens to these folks I have come to know.

 

I agree, the picture description didn't stay with me.  I had to go back and re read it when this descussion topic came up.  

MG

 

MG-

So glad to know that there was another reader out there who got so wrapped up in the story that they forgot the photograph and any connection to this story.


 

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Jennd1
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

My first impression was that the family had had a hard time getting here and that they would have more hard times until it got better.
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Sunltcloud
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Auddy Marie,

 

They do not smile in the picture. They smile after the shutter clicks. Probably because they are relieved that the picture taking is over. With the large cameras and long exposure times of the glass plates in those days, the person to be photographed had to stand absolutely still or the picture would be blurred. It was easier to hold your breath while the mouth was closed.

 

"They stare straight ahead, their eyes lost in shadows. Expressionless. Arms rigidly pressed against their sides. Holding their breath as the photographer counts......."

 

And later....

"But this day, in the moment right after the shutter clicks shut, this family takes a deep breath and smiles."


AuddyMarie wrote:
Good point about the picture. I too was surprized that they were smiling in the picture. The 1930's was a very depressing time (note The Great Depression). Maybe it was some form of metaphor for the times to unfold after the picture was taken.

Message Edited by AuddyMarie on 08-07-2009 08:13 AM

 

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Stellaluna99
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

I like to be hooked from the first few pages of a book and the photograph did just that.  It definitely made me realize that this would not be a warm fuzzy story, which, cynically enough, made me even more excited to read on. I was able to "see" the characters from the beginning because of the photo and believe it was a fabulous way to start off.
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Wisteria-L
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎07-06-2009

Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Something keeps bothering me about this photograph. Did anyone mention yet the fact that they were very poor farmers, and why would they have an occasion to have their picture taken? The baby is Ivan as he was conceived in Canada. The time had to be late winter, early spring since the snow was still on the ground. The lack of coats and short sleeves makes me think it is a early spring day with a late snowfall.

 

But, why would this family, as poor as they are, have their picture taken. What was the reason for the family gathering?  Was someone getting married? Was it a special holiday? Photography was just not that prevalent or available, especially to those without money. Hmmmmmm......makes me think.

How about your thoughts?:smileyhappy:

Wisteria,

"Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds a way into his heart."

The Shadow of the Wind,
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
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Sunltcloud
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Wisteria,

 

I don't want to give anything away, but you'll see more detail about the photograph later.

 


Wisteria-L wrote:

Something keeps bothering me about this photograph. Did anyone mention yet the fact that they were very poor farmers, and why would they have an occasion to have their picture taken? The baby is Ivan as he was conceived in Canada. The time had to be late winter, early spring since the snow was still on the ground. The lack of coats and short sleeves makes me think it is a early spring day with a late snowfall.

 

But, why would this family, as poor as they are, have their picture taken. What was the reason for the family gathering?  Was someone getting married? Was it a special holiday? Photography was just not that prevalent or available, especially to those without money. Hmmmmmm......makes me think.

How about your thoughts?:smileyhappy:


 

 
Inspired Correspondent
ponkle
Posts: 81
Registered: ‎01-30-2009

Re: Photograph and First Impressions


emmagrace wrote:

BooksRPam wrote:


The photograph was a perfect "hook" for the book and made me love these people before I even got to know them in the following pages.  Shandi somehow manages to set the mood in literally the first paragraph of this tale, "This will be their only photograph together."  I already felt sad without even knowing what was to come.  The very fact that this photo would be the last successfully set the scene of foreboding and dread, already making the reader ask, "But why?  What happens?" and then the knowledge that "This can't be good."

 

The mood continues with the knowledge that they are posed "in their church best."  They're trying so hard to make this moment special in an obviously hard existence.  As the "photograph intro" goes on, I continue to feel the storm-is-coming mood with the phrase "their eyes lost in shadows."

 

Overall, my first impression was saddened that this family, even though they have so little - no stockings, no winter clothes in which to pose in four inches of snow, only the baby is "round and fat" - are actually happy in this snapshot in time.  "This family takes a deep breath and smiles."  They're strong and together and happy, and the fact that Shandi starts off the book with letting us in on what was to come made me want to read more.


Well said Pam!


I could not have said it better. I think you have summed up my feelings perfectly!

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jclay26
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

I really liked the beginning starting with the photograph. I also really liked the "newspaper clip" at the end of the section about the fire and the devastating circumstances of the death of the family. It was unique to be able to see how Shandi Mitchell weaved into her story the two horses that were present in the newspaper clipping. I think the photograph gave me a chance to visualize in my mind what the characters looked like before I began to read. Then with the additional of actual photographs that Shandi Mitchell had found through her research and also the video that was posted in one of the other discussions we get an even better visual of the characters we are so invested in. I don't believe it gave away to much but added just the right amount of suspense to keep me reading.
What you have to do...is trust your own story. Get the hell out of the way and let it tell itself. - Tim O'Brien; The Things They Carried
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christinezeg
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

I could see the photo in my mind, the description was so well written. I thought it was a brilliant start to the book. It definitely peaked my curiosity. And after reading about the family, I can see it even more clearly.
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dleigh
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

I thought the description of the photograph was a great way to begin the story & it really had me hooked. As I read along I am constantly referring back to the opening paragraphs - trying to decipher the mysteries of the photograph...who will die? Who will be murdered? What caused this family to only have summer clothing in the winter? Do they survive? It immediately hooked me.  Plus, I referred back to the pictures that Shandi posted to form an idea of what their clothing or styles may have been during this time period.

DH
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artist4nature
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

The description of the photo provides a setting for the book, I think it gives just enough info to pique the readers interest.  The fact that they are of different ages and dressed in their summer clothes in 4 inches of snow - and posing for this photo.  "They stare straight ahead, their eyes lost in shadows. Expressionless"  It is not a happy occasion?  But the

author says "after the shutter clicks shut, this family takes a deep breath and smiles....

 

I have a large box of old family photos and this reminds me of some of my ancestors - hard working, immigrants to the US from Canada.  Dressed for Sunday worship all staring straight ahead with no expression..  "Was this their only photo together?"

 

It is said that a picture says 1,000 words - but the description of this picture leads us to the many words that tell this story.

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Popper19
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Started the book today and all I have to say about the first page is WOW!!!!
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Nancy625
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Wearing summer clothes and standing in 4 inches of smow what a line. 
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Mariandy
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

When I started reading the book, I had just returned from a 700+ mile car trip to a family reunion, where I saw lots of old photographs of my grandparents and great-grandparents. In so many of the photos from the 1930s and earlier everyone is looking very solemn and serious. So I could easily envision such a photo as described in this opening section, and it made me want to know more about the people and their stories. For me, the hook definitely worked.
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retromom
Posts: 113
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Th description of the picture drew me in instantly. The descriptions were so great that I really felt like I had the picture in front of me. The photo told me that this must be a hardy family as they are standing in snow dressed for summer. I don't think the description gave away too much. It draws the reader in and gives them a glimpse of what is to come.
Beth

http://bookaholicmom.blogspot.com/
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ClaudiaLuce
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎01-31-2008

Re: Photograph and First Impressions

As I am sitting here reading everyones' replies, tears are streaming down my cheeks.  I can't help but remembering my mother and father's descriptions of their teen years during that horrible time of the depression years - years when they had nothing but one outfit that had to be washed at night and hung out in the house to be worn again the next day! 

 

As I read the opening words to Shandi's novel, I could only picture these  memories and those hardships and put those on this family who also added moving from the horrors of what I remember from history of Stalin's Russia to what they believed would be a better life in Canada.  I will admit to crying often during the reading of this novel! Something that I consider adding to a good read!!

 

My first impression of this family is one that I have of many families of that era - that they have incredible fortitude and inner strength. How else could they have gone on facing hunger, knowing their children would be doing without the basic necessities of life, without a love of life and of one another?  I know that in the end, whoever in this novel survives will be very strong of spirit and faith - just as those who I love who survived the Great Depression were!!

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." -
-- Sir Richard Steele
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retromom
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Thanks so much for the timeline. I was a bit confused too. This cleared it up for me.


Sunltcloud wrote:

 

It took me a while to get the dates straight between the description of the 1933 photograph and "Spring 1938." Not until I had made a list of characters and had reread a couple of paragraphs did I understand the connection.

If there is anybody else as dense as I am, here is what I came up with.

 

Teodor - father

Maria - mother

Dania - oldest daughter

Myron, second oldest child, oldest son

Sofia - not yet 5 when they leave Ukraine. In 1938 she is almost 11 years old.

Katya - 5 months old when they leave Ukraine. In 1938 she is 6 years old.

Ivan, conceived in Canada, 5 years old in 1938.

 

Anna - Teodor's sister

Stefan - Anna's husband

Lesya- their daughter. She is 10 in 1938

Petro - born when Lesya was 3. That makes him 7 in 1938.

 

The 1933 Alberta photograph: Man, woman, 5 children. (Eldest boy, three girls, baby.)

 

Now to page 15.

"That was at their old home. Their first home in Canada. It's where they built their house, broke the land. Where Ivan was conveived on a still, warm April night....... that was the last place her family had called home.

 

 If Ivan is 5 years old in the spring of 1938 that made him the baby sitting on the  woman's lap in the winter of 1933. The boy at the far end is Myron, the three girls are Dania, Sofia, and Katya. By the end of 1936 the farm is foreclosed. One of the people in the photograph will die in 1938 (during the year we are reading about) and the two that will be murdered must be in the extended family (Anna, Stefan, Lesya, Petro), since they are not in the picture.

 

The back of the book says that there will be "violence and tragedy" I am glad I figured out the connection. I don't think the introduction gives away too much, but I had to work a bit on my understanding of the sequence of events.

 

On page 76, on the day of their escape from the village, Maria's mother gives her the jeweled crucifix. In the same paragraph "Maria traded the crucifix for the wagonload of grain that the police had confiscated."

We are transported from the Ukraine to Canada in this sentence; I guess I overlooked that the first time I read it. Maria now takes the children on a fifty-mile trek north to Anna's house. Teodor is in jail. The farm is gone, the house is gone. Maria saves the grain. And it will be two years before Teodor comes home.

 

Even though people tended to look stiff and official in the portraits of those days (because they had to stand still for so long) the photograph is their symbol of "togetherness." The fact that they smiled after the shutter had clicked shut is proof of this. And so begins the long road ahead.......... 

 

 

 

 

 

rkubie wrote:

How is the description of this 1933 photograph an introduction to this story? What does it tell us about who this family is and what may be going to happen? Do you think the description "gives away" too much, or does it entice you to keep reading?

 

 

As you begin reading, please share your first impressions of this family and their difficult lives. Where have they come from, and how have they made it this far?
 


 

Message Edited by Sunltcloud on 08-03-2009 08:11 PM

 

Beth

http://bookaholicmom.blogspot.com/
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literature
Posts: 499
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Re: Photograph and First Impressions

Hi Wisteria-L,

You asked "why this family, as poor as they are, have their picture taken"?  My maternal grandmother had one family portrait taken with all her siblings and their children and this was well before the great American depression.  These people were very poor but felt that it was money well spent to have at least one family portrait.  It is interesting to note that there was not a smile on anyone's face.  The parents sat while the children were positioned around them.  This portrait has been copied and currently each family household possesses a copy.  These families did not grow up on the prairies but in the tenaments of NYC.