Monday, June 28, 2010

Under This Unbroken Sky

Under This Unbroken Sky: A Novel Under This Unbroken Sky: A Novel by Shandi Mitchell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In the opening pages of Shandi Mitchell’s novel “Under This Unbroken Sky,” Mitchell presents a picture of our characters – a family in 1933 living on the Canadian prairie – and tells their futures without hesitation. Just a year into the future, this family’s farm will be foreclosed, one family member will be dead, and two family members who are not pictured will be murdered. Not quite the “year in the life” that you were expecting, but in this novel, only the sky remains unbroken. Everyone else cracks and crumbles with only a few people strong enough to bear the strain.

“Under This Unbroken Sky” is not a brilliant novel. It has powerful moments and dramatic symbolism. It has lovable characters and imagery strong enough to make you rub your hands together because you think you too are standing on the frozen tundra in the winter. Overall though, the story never lives up to that opening page. I expected more action packed moments, less staring into the fire and wondering how the children were going to be fed.

The story reads like “Grapes of Wrath” meets “The Jungle” meets “My Antonia” but with a more modern style of prose. The era certainly is an interesting one. The plight of immigrants is one that we probably ignore too often. However, at the end of this reading experience, I found myself wishing that instead I had picked up another Steinbeck novel, and slipped into the 1930s with a different set of characters.

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