I’ve been posting a lot of reviews lately, in an attempt to catch up with my reading. I think this is the last for a while. Whew!
Sunflowers Beneath the Snow recounts the lives of three generations of women in Ukraine: grandmother, mother, daughter. This is the author’s first book, and she has created a deeply emotional portrayal of each of these women. ‘Sunflowers beneath the Snow’ is a phrase spoken by the grandmother, but to me, these three women are the sunflowers.
Ivanna, the grandmother, has spent the majority of her life under Communist rule, where everything from food to housing is strictly regulated. She doesn’t know her husband, Luyaksandro, is spying for an anti-Communist group, and when the group informs him he’s been identified, they give him the choice to be sent out of the country or be outed, which would lead to the arrest and possible death of his family by the state police. He chooses to leave without a word to his family.
When her husband disappears, Ivanna is told he is dead at the hand of his lover’s husband, and she feels bitterly betrayed. She now must to try to support herself and her daughter with nothing but a menial job, scarce food, and cold, mean living quarters. She uses ingenuity and determination to ensure their survival, but somehow she never stops believing in the necessity and fairness of the Communist government. As her daughter, Yevtsye, grows up, she develops political, religious, and societal opinions different from those of her mother, from whom she becomes estranged. She meets and marries Danya, a teacher of physics at the university, and after years of trying, they have a daughter, Ionna.
Ionna is born into a world different from those of her grandmother and her mother, since by that time, Ukraine has been independent from Russian for some years – although the country is still dependent of Russia for virtually everything and is run by corrupt politicians. She proves a contradiction to both her mother and grandmother and dreams of seeing and experiencing the world outside of Ukraine. Her eventual travels lead to a surprising outcome.
The author writes with great realism of living in Ukraine during that period of time. She reaches deep to portray the tenacity, determination, and deeply felt emotions of these women, in the face of the different and continual challenges in their lives. This book should be of particular interest to readers, given the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. The history described by the author explains a great deal of what is happening now. This reader lived in Czechoslovakia when it was part of the Soviet Union, and the author has hit the nail on the head of what it is like to live in a country under Russia’s control.
The only problem I had with this book was some prolonged descriptions of the women’s emotional states or considerations of Ukrainian politics. This slowed the forward progress of the story and tempted me to read ahead.
This is the author’s first book and, overall, I think she’s written a winner. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction in a historical setting, especially in the recent history of Eastern Europe.
About the author (from Amazon)
Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown developed an imagination full of stories to tell. She now calls the North Carolina coast home, and the peaceful nature of the sea has been a great source of inspiration for her creativity.
She and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. She learned she is stronger than she realized and capable of anything she sets her mind to.
Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others.
You can find Teri
On her blog: https://www.terimbrown.com/blog
On twitter: @TeriMBrown1
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeriMBrownAuthor
You can find Sunflowers Beneath the Snow on Amazon: