The Sky Unwashed
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The Sky Unwashed

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  456 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Marusia, in her seventies, is the matriarch of the Petrenko family. She has lived and worked all her life in starylis, a tiny town in rural Ukraine. Starylis is a place where families still live in the ancient thatched-roof cottages that have been their homes for generations. It's a place where everyone grows their own vegetables, where the old women (the babas) sweep the...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published March 31st 2000 by Algonquin Books
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3.5 Stars

The Sky Unwashed by Irene Zabytbo was an interesting read which told the story of Marusia Petrenko and her family who live on a small farm in the Ukraine and how on an April Saturday Morning in 1986 her life and the lives of her family and neighbours is changed forever by the horrors of the Chernobyl accident and the disturbing way in which the government mislead the people.

This is fictitious account of the Chernobyl disaster which made the word sit up and take notice as we all waited...more
I know a book is good when I immediately want to Google it and learn more about the subject matter. As we start looking at nuclear power to solve out energy needs, this book becomes a must read.

"The Sky Unwashed" brought back memories of Chernobyl, the horrible fate that awaited the residents and the horrific response of the government. It follows the story of an elderly woman who loses her only son to radiation sickness, then enables her daughter-in-law and grandchildren to escape. Then she do...more
I recommended this book to my women's reading club. We will discuss it in a week or so. It was a bookbub deal on Kindle so I grabbed it. I'm really looking forward to the discussion!

I work at one of the national laboratories and when the Chernobyl meltdown occurred, some of the Lab employees were called upon to go help. They gave a talk when they returned. They said that it was a holiday and the few employees working that day ran an experiment but unthinkingly turned off all the "braking" system...more
I loved this book! I picked it up on a whim as I was leaving the library because I have a passing interest in Chernobyl and the Soviet Union. I honestly didn't expect anything too great but it just sucked me in. It was so heart-breaking to see how the people were treated and, reading in hindsight, how they were lied to. I really felt for all the characters and I thought Zabytko did a great job building up them up. Yes, I will admit they were a bit stereotypical, but despite that I still found my...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
This is a lovely, gentle book about the slow death of a community. It starts with the normal friction and vivacity of everyday life in a Ukrainian village and progresses through the chaos and aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster; displacement, loss of identity and, finally, return, by the older members of the village, to a dying land. The book reflects this contrast between the vitality of life and the uncertain peace of dying (poisoned by radiation) and drifts slowly into a hopeful oblivion. Whe...more
Marissa  Pineda
I didn't really enjoy this book---the tone was so "down"---but, how else is a book about the aftrmath of Chernobyl supposed to be? Not at all my favorite book, or my favorite subject--but I learned that you don't have to like a book to gain something from it. Worth reading for the history/culture/politics--if you're into that kind of thing.
I gave this book four stars, despite the pedestrian writing, because it manages to be a feel-good book even in the face of government lies, cheating spouses, radiation sickness, starvation and death. Like Faulkner's people, these villagers endured. Not just endured -- enjoyed the paltry slice of life left to them.
Jeannette Nikolova
What I really didn't like was the lack of depth to the story. If I didn't know about what actually happened in Chernobyl, I would have no idea about the magnitude of the event in comparison to what happens in the book. I get that the author wanted to recapture the lack of information that the real people had back then, but I am positive they couldn't have been that oblivious. I wasn't born yet, but my parents lived in another closed-off socialist country - Bulgaria, and in a few months they alre...more
This story is about the matriarchs of a Russian village poisoned by Chernobyl, and their experience living through the disaster, and with the fallout. Literally, in this case - the main character escapes briefly iwth her family, but after getting them out, she goes back to the village to live out the rest of her life on her home soil...even though it is poisoned with radiation and she knows she will die there.

Somehow, though this is a tragic and sad story about people being lied to and failed b...more
Chris Enderle
Chernobyl is a name that will forever live in infamy and shadowy deception of what was once the pride and joy of the Soviet Union. During the height of the cold war, Chernobyl was a little town within the region of Pripyat, established by the Soviet Union at the time so that workers at the nuclear plant there wouldn’t have to travel so far. Over time, they began bringing their families with them, and the government believed that this was a sign to the rest of the world of their power, and of how...more
This was an interesting fictional read about a small village near Chernobyl and the aftermath of the explosion at the nuclear plant there in 1986. It centered around a family and the matriarch of the family that eventually moved back to her village after the evacuation because that was the only place she had ever known. It was appalling how the Soviet government treated all the people affected by the Chernobyl fall out. What amazed me the most was that it I had not known this story takes place i...more
Kathy Barton
This is the story of a family that lived outside Chernobyl and worked in the plant when the nuclear explosion happened in 1986. It tells the story of Marusia, a grandmother who lives with her son, Yurko and daughter in law and 2 children. Her son was working at the plant when the accident happened and did not come home for 3 days. When he did come home, he was very sick with radiation poisoning. Within days, they were forced to leave and go to Kiev, where Yurlo was put in a hospital. The daughte...more
This book was very interesting and makes me want to know more about the Chernobyl "accident". I have looked into a few movies and documentaries about the subject. It painted a very vivid picture of what the residents' lives were like. I would like to do more research to know how close to the truth the author was. At times the book was a bit rambling but she used some beautiful language.
An interesting family saga that took place during the Chernobyl incident. Wish they had 4-1/2 stars, cause it was very good.
"The Sky Unwashed" by Irene Zabytko, is the fictional story of a family who experienced the fire and nuclear accident at Chernobyl. The story starts with the realities of day to day life in communist Russia and paints a good picture of what we westerners have heard and read about that existence. The secrecy that surrounds the accident while it is unfolding to the local residents seems nothing short of criminal though the locals are very aware that there is something definitely wrong with the wat...more
This is a novel about the Chernobyl disaster. A quick summary: The main character is an older woman, Marusia, who lives in the small town of Starylis about 10 km from Chernobyl. Nearly all the younger people in town work at the plant. After the melt down, the whole town is evacuated and Marusia and her family spend months as refugees in Kiev. Finally, after her son dies and her daughter-in-law takes the children to Moscow, Marusia decides to move back to Starylis. She is the only one there but s...more
Book number 53 in my Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge -

The Sky Unwashed by Irene Zabytko is a fictional account of the terrible Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in the 1980's. It follows the lives of plant workers, housewives, and children who suffered the after effects of the Chernobyl plant meltdown, and the Soviet government's inefficiency to act. It's a grim, but honest, story of these events, the years that followed, and the lasting impact.

In 1986 there was an accident in the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. Significant amounts of radiation were released and consequently the people working in the plant or living in the vicinity suffered the tragic consequences. All this is well known and documented in significant detail.
This book is the story of a family who in a village near the plant. Naturally, it is a tragic story but it is also a particularly dull one. The book was interesting in the beginning because it painted an intere...more
Human faces and feelings were given to victims of Chernobyl. This horrible nuclear tragedy has never been fully explained by Russia although it occurred in April 1986! No full accountability of lives lost or aftermath of the radiation poisoning has been fully offered. Though the marital drama of the novel might not seem necessary, it probably was since jobs for good looking women and job security often were contingent upon sexual favors for party bosses at that time.

Shoddy practices at the pow...more
Diane Lybbert
This was a wonderful book. The place is a small village outside of Chernobyl, in 1986 when the nuclear power plant had a massive explosion releasing deadly radiation into the air. Centering on one woman, Marusia, and her family, we follow her as she is evacuated to Kiev, the filthy and overcrowded hospital where her son (who had worked at Chernobyl) finally dies; then as she tries to find a place to go from there; then finally back to her little village, long abandoned after the accident. For aw...more
This is why I love historical fiction. Even when it is a fictionalized account, I learn something. And I want to learn more about the actual history and how it affected real people. This story, based on real accounts, was a vivid picture of the chaos and lack of information and tragedy that the people who suffered through the Chernobyl disaster were subjected to. I loved the way the culture of these Ukrainian families and the community of women comes through. I liked that even the characters tha...more
What I loved about this was the small, intimate details of every day life. Things used to be like this, now they are like that, worldview, food, clothing, etc. This felt like a story the author was dying to tell, and I'm glad I read it. I also loved the women-centered aspect of the story, and the well-defined characters. My concerns are small and did not take away from the pleasure of reading this book. I wondered briefly how a Ukrainian would read the cultural details--were they too explainy, l...more
Having lived within about 1,000 miles of Chernobyl when the "incident" happened back in 1986, I was keenly interested in this story. The book did not disappoint. Very well written. Even though it is clear from the beginning where the book is headed, the author manages to turn this into a sort of tragic triumph, if that's possible with this subject.

The story follows an older Ukrainian woman and her mental and physical struggle after the "incident". I could not help but admire the humanity of the...more
S. Thomas Kaza
The Sky Unwashed is a powerful story about the dystopian aftermath of the Chernobyl incident that took place in 1986 in the former Soviet Union. It is historical fiction, but not about the movers and shakers behind the incident. It focuses on an elderly Ukrainian woman, Marusia, her close circle of family and friends, and how the radiation that leaked from the Chernobyl nuclear plant broke that circle and changed their lives. It is not a book filled with facts and figures. It is a human story ab...more
The story of Chernobyl doesn't have a happy ending for anyone. But this story of pure determination leads to an old grandmother returning to her home in the hopes that her family and village will return and life will go on, despite the death of her son. A fairly good novel, full of squabbles and dirt and real people. I get the feeling that Zabytko, if she wasn't there, got a lot of first person detail about these towns and their people -- the details seem incredibly realistic. I did like it for...more
Aug 11, 2013 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nancy by: Jane via Book Bub
Okay then ... Book Bub $1.99 book recommendation by Jane is a winner! I actually googled about Chernobyl before reading the book. And, I am so glad I did! While the book is a work of fiction, it really parallels the unbelievable events of that fateful day in 1986. In a time where news was and remains right now, the people living in the crisis of Chernobyl really were clueless to that catastrophe at hand. Days after the initial fire, they believed they were leaving their homes for the weekend whi...more
The way Zabytko addresses the concerns of the country never ceases to astound me. My Dad bought this book from a local book sale outlet and I wasn't interested at first, assuming it as another one of those uninteresting types. But one day, I ran out of books to read so I settled down with this one in hand.

Needless to say, I finished the book in a day. The way the people suffered from radioactive waves, the way they suffered in the evacuation camps... The book captivated me in the heartbreaking m...more
Brooke Field
I enjoyed the journey back into a time filled with such turmoil and rich tradition.
Mary Ann
So sad- very interesting- love the history- super easy and fast to read.
Not the best writing, but the story was so fascinating. I won't soon forget the way the characters were treated when Chernobyl cracked up. The gym they were housed in...I expect a lot of people experience something similar - New Orleans, Haiti, Japan. But the follow on when the old woman returned home took on a sort of Swiss Family Robinson aura. I understood her need to go home but some of what they accomplished (she was joined by others) was almost beyond imagination. Still, a good read and to...more
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