08-06-2009 06:10 PM
I think the 2 families are very interesting. The at times seem like one family, with Maria caring for everyone.
Anna provided for her brother, by getting the land. But it seems that since then, her problems now have gotten worse. Maria seems to need to take care of Anna as much as the children.
08-06-2009 06:38 PM
I find myself wondering what they were like as children, too.
In another time and place, the relationship between Maria and Anna would probably be very distant. Maria takes care of Anna out of necessity, and because there just isn't another option. They would not be friends in any situation. When I see two siblings (Anna and T) who are so different in their adult lives and how they deal with adversity, I wonder what their childhood home was like.
I am really enjoying the story!
08-06-2009 07:20 PM
Oh, I loved that!
Then, he comes home. Shandi's description here seems right on. The children cautiously move around him until Ivan takes Teodore's face in his hands, looks into his eyes, and proclaims "It's him." That scene brought tears to my eyes.
08-06-2009 07:24 PM
That was so touching.
Wasn't it awesome how Myron kept looking out for his father? He not only let his father keep his dignity, but he also showed him a lot of respect. Myron seems to have grown up very quickly and knows the value of honor and dignity. He wants his father to see how much he has grown, to see the things he has done, but not at the expense of Teodore's pride.
Wow, such a lot of contrasts and contradictions between the two families and also the characters. I thought DStaff summed it up very well. I am also curious about Myron. I think being the head of the family while his father was away puts him in an awkward position now that his father has returned. I had wondered if maybe he had looked up to Stefan, as the only man around. But, he did maintain his father's dignity as Teodor struggled with the plow.
08-07-2009 12:52 PM
"I'm unsure why Anna and Maria are not better friends. After all, they lived out there in the middle of nowhere for a long time together - when both of the men were away. I'm surprised Anna doesn't tell Maria about what her husband is up to and also why Maria doesn't seem to want to know too much about what is up with"
All of Maria's time is spent doing daily chores to ensure that her family, and Anna's, will have food and that the household runs smoothly. Perhaps if Anna was more willing to be social, it might have worked. After a hard day's work in the fields and then to have to work at a social situation with someone (Anna) who couldn't, just may have been too exhausting for Maria to do. Anna may have understood what Stephan was doing but too humiliated/embarrassed to discuss or maybe Anna just didn't want to admit it to herself. Or it could have been that Maria just wasn't a social person, just a hard working and dedicated person to her family and her extended family but not socially inclined. I've given Anna a bad rap in some of my earlier postings, but I will give her (somewhat) the benefit of the doubt here.
08-07-2009 01:53 PM
I feel like Anna and Maria's relationship isn't a very close one, because Anna desires a better life than the one she has, while Maria accepts where she is and makes the best of it. I feel like if Anna made more of an effort to become involved in the family dynamic and farm life, than the two of them would be closer.
08-07-2009 01:58 PM
Thank you for putting the beginning into such a nice time line. When I started reading spring and fall, I completely forgot the introduction about the photo. It wasn't until this discussion started that I realized that it was Maria and Teodor's family and that it foretold what was going to happen.
I had a problem with the prison sentence too. At first, probably automatically, I assumed that he had been imprisoned in the Ukraine and later followed his wife and children to Canada and to his sister's farm. But then I reread a couple of things that cleared it for me. The prison scene was in Canada, after he stole his own grain.
The paragraph that had confused me is on page 76. The whole page is about the village in the Ukraine; at the bottom of the page, in the same paragraph Maria's crucifix is explained (given to her by her mother the day of their escape) and, further down is says: "When Teodor was sent to prison, Maria traded the crucifix for the wagonload of grain that the police had confiscated."
Not until I reread the previous page and the following page, and the page where their first home in Canada is described, (page 15) their arrival on Canadian soil, did I understand clearly about the prison sentence. And then the prologue made sense too. The picture was taken the first winter after their arrival, then, within the next three years the farm was taken away, Teodor went to prison, Maria took her children to Anna's farm, and the story of the four seasons begins.....
Shandi's ability to create two separate worlds within one is amazing. The depth of the relationships within Maria and Teodor's marrage and lack of with Anna and Stefan is wonderful. As others have said, Maria's marriage seems to be based on love and responsibility. Anna's is a fantacy. She married a dream that became a nightmare. Typical of young infatuation.
I am still a little confused about Teodor's prison sentence. He managed to escape Ukraine, but was caught with grain in Canada? So he was imprisoned in Canada? That is what I don't understand. Why not in the old country?
I completely agree with your post....as for the prison sentence...if I read, remember and understand correctly, he did plant a harvest in Canada and 3 weeks shy of his paying off the "loan" from the government, they came in and confiscated everything...he stole the grain in Canada....he did not get caught leaving and/or stealing from the Ukraine... I could however be wrong...I don't have the book in front of me to check the facts...
08-07-2009 03:03 PM
08-08-2009 04:31 PM
The children, of course, seem to mark the differences between the two families most. How would you describe those differences?
Maria's children seem genuinely happy. They are happy with each other and the look up to their parents. They fuction as a family and the whole family is investing in what they are doing. They know without their hard work together, that the family might not survive. Anna's family on the other hand is a family by blood only. The children spend more time with Maria and her children than with their own mother. Anna is in a world all her own. I sometimes wonder if she resents Maria and Theo.
What are the marriages like? Maria and Theo adore each other. They strive together to give their children what they need. They are gentle with each other, but push each other when needed. Anna and Stephan don't have a relationship. She seems afraid of him but also doesn't know what to do when he's not there.
What is the relationship between Anna and Maria? I'm not sure really. Maria almost acts more motherly, but she also feels its not her place to tell Anna what to do.
08-08-2009 06:32 PM
08-08-2009 07:14 PM
DSaff and aprilh have given great summaries and observations of the character interactions in the first part of the novel.
It strikes me that Maria and her son Myron are the force that holds these families together before Teodor returns from jail. Maria is happy to have her husband/head of the household back but Myron is not able to relinquish his self appointed role to his dad.
Anna, due to the abusive relationship with her husband, is more like another child for Maria to watch over and nurture along with Anna's children. Strong women were needed in this brutal environment and Maria fits that profile.
08-08-2009 08:08 PM
Q: The children, of course, seem to mark the differences between the two families most. How would you describe those differences?
Anna's children suffer from neglect, whereas Maria's children are well cared for, and seem much better adjusted. This difference seems to mark the differences between the families, in their entirety, as well. Ivan is quicker and smarter than Petro, even though he is two years younger than his cousin. His development is better because he has family members who take an interest in him. Petro craves attention from his Tato, but his Tato is a lazy, good-for-nothing scoundrel. I don't really think that the inclusion of his father in his life for periods longer than the few weeks at a time Stefan is around would actually do Petro any good. I think he gets much better role models in his elder cousin and his uncle. He dreams of his father coming home, but I think he is better off without him. Likewise, I know Lesya is better off without him. However, I think both children would benefit from being reared in the home of Aunt Maria and Uncle Teodor, versus living with their mother and/or father.
Dania and Myron have already taken on adult responsibilities within the family. They both have the ability to assist their mother and father with household chores and farming needs. Katya is still young. She has such an active imagination. I believe that Sofia and Lesya are similar in age differences to the two young boys, but are as different as night and day. Lesya behaves much older than her cousin, Sofia, who dreams of being a rich, pampered child.
Q: What are the marriages like?
Maria and Teodor's marriage is based on faith, trust and love, whereas Anna and Stefan's marriage is based on falsehoods and failed hopes.
Q: What is the relationship between Anna and Maria?
Although they are technically sisters-in-law, it is more of a caregiver role that Maria finds herself in. Whether Anna is capable, or not capable, the fact that she doesn't take care of herself or her children has forced Maria, who is unable to ignore someone in need, to care for them all. Anna seems like a child herself. The way that Maria feels compelled to visit frequently to ensure the family has food and to make sure Lesya is coping with the household chores, the way she checks on Anna's self-inflicted wounds and cleans them out and applies salve to them reminds me of someone who is caring for a child in an adult body. I don't think Anna was bad before becoming pregnant again, but I don't get the feeling that Anna was ever a good mother. I find myself increasingly frustrated at Anna's behavior.
08-08-2009 08:19 PM
08-08-2009 08:51 PM
I need to think about the reasons or the differences a bit more before I write too much but an obvious thought would be family dynamics and parenting. A not so obvious thought would be genetics and family traits that are handed down over the generations. The two families we are involved with, include a brother and sister as parents of their respective families. As I was reading it struck me that Leysa was just as strong and overcoming as Maria i.e... Theo. Likewise, Sophia seems to have the same propensity for finer things and wanting to get away from the farm for bigger and better things as did Anna before she was married.
08-08-2009 08:56 PM
The differences are quite apparent from the beginning. I believe that Maria has taught and showed her children that you can survive anything and you will getn rewarded. I also think that Anna is in no shape to be a mother to two children when she cannot take care of herself and relies on other people to help her.
The marriages are completely different. For one Theo and Maria work together to make the best possible lives for their family they both have a good set of values as far as taking care of family even when you are both having hard times. Stefan and Anna's is totally different, Anna seems to only care about herself when Stefan is around and she pays so much attention to him she fails to realize the children are around.
08-09-2009 12:46 AM
The children are all unique with their own personalities, some more endearing than others, some like their parents and others not. Leysa, for example, seems much more like Maria and I'm sensing that Sofia may have more in common with Anna. Myron's protectiveness of Teodor is a reversal of roles - how he turns away so as not to see Teodor's physical weaknesses is both incredibly mature and respectful - how many kids today would do that? Ivan's not wanting his Dad to see him pee in that one scene was quite funny on one hand but also interesting because he is a really young kid yet he worries about stuff like that.
The marriages may be reflective of an individual's character . . . one reader mentioned (and I'm paraphrasing) that Anna should have known better than to marry a guy in Stefan's line of work, but there is something about her that is so sad. Maybe it's her lack of self-confidence - I'm not sure - still trying to figure her out. For Maria and Teodor, they just have a connection combined with "emotional intelligence" that seems to indicate they could make it through anything. I hope they do. I really want to see them happy and successful!
Anna and Maria . . . I think Maria has a deep respect for Anna as a fellow human being. She may feel sorry for her but she doesn't do it in such a way as to make Anna feel worse about herself. I am interested in seeing where this goes. My jury is still out on Anna.
08-09-2009 01:41 AM
08-09-2009 04:12 PM
08-09-2009 10:42 PM