Donna LaValley's Reviews > A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
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Feb 29, 12

Read in February, 2012

“Utterly charming,” I said to Suki after the last paragraph. [Suki, in winter, is a lap cat] The next day, I call this book “Excellent.” The main character is English born of Ukranian parents. She, Nadia, has a distant and sometimes hostile relationship with her older sister Vera, who was born during WWII and who therefore has more memories of their family during hardships and difficult previous years. Nadia is jealous; Vera is resentful.

With their much-loved mother dead 2 years, their father now takes up with a 36-year old Ukranian woman, a buxom, bleached-blonde looking for legal citizenship (marriage), money, and as many status symbols as she can get. Their father is 84 and foolishly falls for every ploy that flouncy Valentina presents. The two sisters now slowly come together to prevent their father from marrying the slovenly schemer. It was, at times, hilarious despite the serious issues. The broken English arguments and culture differences made the best laughs. Peripheral characters add humor and surprise.

As Nadia gradually uncovers the real past (different from gentle family stories) she understands why she and Vera grew apart. They face their father’s foibles, admire his talents, [his latest book is the novel’s title] and have a good look at “old age” as he lives it.

Each character is a realistic mix of strong and weak; no one is a stereotype nor a complete villain. This is the author’s first novel and it’s a wonderful achievement to be so amusing - a nice mix of entertainment and wisdom.

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