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Under This Unbroken Sky

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,457 ratings  ·  303 reviews
Evocative and compelling, rich in imagination and atmosphere, Under This Unbroken Sky is a beautifully wrought debut from a gifted new novelist.

Spring 1938. After nearly two years in prison for the crime of stealing his own grain, Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko is a free man. While he was gone, his wife, Maria; their five children; and his sister, Anna, struggled t
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by George Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published August 27th 2009)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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Without a doubt a beautifully written book, a gem, about a Ukrainian farming family, Maria and Theodor and 6 children in wild Canada of 1938 fighting to survive, setting up a farm, in a dramatic relationship with father Theodor's sister Anna and her spiteful husband Stefan. Nature scenery described with a great love of nature, but describing the harshness of winter season out there alone, rationing food and fighting to stay warm and alive. A book full of love for family and life, and a dramatic ...more
An immigrant story of hardship and tragedy, playing out in the south of Canada. A Ukrianian family struggled to survive in a harsh environment where not only nature was a nemesis, but also the English society who discriminated against them.
Land up in these parts was untamed, choked by bush, rocks, and bogs. The flat rich land farther south went to the British and the gentrified. This part of the country was allocated for Ukrainians, Germans, Russians, Hungarians, and shared with the decimated
Written by a distant relative of my husband's on his mother's side, this book was recommended by relatives on his father's side! Based on a true story of a murder/suicide near our hometown that focused on relatives of my mother-in-law's, I had to get past that it was a work of fiction and not a biography. A heartfelt story of hardworking immigrants that ends in tragedy. ...more
Many thanks to a GoodReads friend who read and wrote an excellent review about this debut novel by Canadian author Shandi Mitchell, thereby bringing it to my attention. This is a compelling, captivating, harrowing, powerful, tragic, and utterly gripping novel.
Evocative and breathtaking, Under This Unbroken Sky portrays a family forced to flee their once-beloved Ukraine in the middle of the night for Canada. Determined to build a new life for themselves, they take to the land and as the crops f
Book Concierge
From the book jacket: Spring 1938. After nearly two years in prison for the crime of stealing his own grain, Ukranian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko is a free man. While he was gone, his wife, Maria, their five children, and his sister, Anna, struggled to survive on the harsh northern Canadian prairie, but now Teodor – a man who has overcome drought, starvation, and Stalin’s purges – is determined to make a better life for them. … But Anna’s husband, Stefan, unexpectedly returns, stirring up ranco ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of Ron Nash, Kent Haruf, Willa Cather
The reader is warned on page one that there is tragedy ahead yet I was completely cast within its dark spell; almost impossible to put this one down. The story unfurls depression-era prairie life in northern Canada — where Fall is Winter and Winter is something else, paying homage to Ukrainian immigrants, their mistreatment and suffering, the often devastating struggle to survive. A granddaughter of immigrant farmers myself, in my comfortable home and circumstances I sometimes mourn the passin
Wow. This is a tough one. Not because I didn't like this book-- I loved this book-- but because it was so gut-wrenching at times that I question: Did I enjoy it?

But the verdict is "yes", for the most part, I did enjoy it. Even though there were moments in the book when I would sit with the book held in my hands, still closed, and take a deep breath and prepare myself to read on. Because I knew. I knew what was about to come was going to be hard to read. And I dreaded reading the words, even thou
This is a harsh book, tenderly written.
The 4 rating is given somewhat reluctantly because towards the end I could not wait to finish. As a mere witness of the page, I felt helpless and overemotional and irrationally protective of this family of immigrants, and it finally dawned on me, this was the life of my own grandparents, who were not farmers but were give a parcel of land to farm in Canada along with their passage.
This book really opened my eyes regarding the tough conditions that are trans
I absolutely adored this book. It is the story of two families whose lives are linked through land and kinship, one family eroding day by day, step by step, loss by loss, the other fighting to hold on to some sense of joy. It is the story of immigrants, of the great depression, of the Canadian prairie. I found the writing just beautiful; simple yet imbued with meaning. I felt deep emotions as I read this book -- fear, anger, joy, sadness and love -- and was absorbed in the story from start to fi ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love farm stories. I attribute this to the fact that I loved reading and watching Little House on the Prairie. So in a way, this book reminded me of LHOTP except that it takes place in late 1930's and it's SO MUCH DARKER

This was a fantastic read. I could not put it down. I needed to know what happened next!

Taking place in Alberta, Canada Under This Unbroken Sky tackles the concept of picking up where you left off. Not exactly a 2nd chance but more like the will to come back and restart the on
Oct 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book was a great surprise. I bought it on impulse about a year ago, but had not got around to reading it. What took me so long to read it was the sense that it would be very bleak. There is no doubt that the story is bleak, and the sense of foreboding set off by the first few pages pervades the book. However, Mitchell does an amazing job of depicting the hard and complicated life and personalities of her characters, that I found myself being consumed by the story and enjoying all the minute ...more
Connie G
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an immigrant story of struggle and survival in the Alberta prairie during the Depression in 1938. After escaping from Stalin's purges in the Ukraine, Teodor Mykolayenko is jailed for two years for stealing his own wheat on his first Canadian farm. His wife and children move to the prairie of northern Canada with his sister. Teodor joins them later, works the land, and builds a house and barn. But his sister's greedy husband returns, and is bent on driving Teodor away. How much suffering ...more
This debut novel by Canadian author Shandi Mitchell packs quite a punch! The blue sky and billowing prairie clouds which grace the cover of one edition of the book and the innocent teacup dangling from a cup-hook on the dust-jacket of another edition belie the power of the story within.

The cover image of a vast prairie landscape inspires in me a sense of awe and wonder and evokes memories of joyous childhood summers in Saskatchewan visiting relatives. Although the beginning of the story -- a de
Diane  Holm
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The struggle and tragedy that befell the Ukrainian immigrants to Canada is portrayed with gut wrenching precision. This story may be fictional, but the truth behind its telling could be repeated by those who lived and died in similar circumstances.
Ms. Mitchell jumps into the story with an overload of characters that are a challenge to keep clear. The first few pages appear difficult, leaving the reader a little lost. With the passing of time, the story unfolds like a movie and individuals emerge
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Set in 1937 Canada, Under This Unbroken Sky tells the story of two families at odds. Ukrainian immigrant Teodor Mykolayenko, his wife, and their five children are struggling to farm the prairie land they hope to someday own. Due to Teodor's recent incarceration (because of him "stealing" his own grain), he is uneligible to own land in his own name. Agreeing to help him out, his partially unhinged sister Anna buys the homestead, with the arrangement that after he pays her back the land will be hi ...more
Linda B
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Under This Unbroken Sky is the story of the families of Teodor, and his sister Anna, Ukrainian immigrants to the northern Canadian prairie. Set in 1938, farming life on the cold prairie was harsh and their very existence was a struggle to survive.

Drought, greed, starvation, child abuse, murder, rape, - Incredibly dark and depressing you struggle through their daily hardships with tragedy after tragedy. The descriptions in the book are well done, but I did not care for the mostly present tense w
Gail Amendt
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an artfully written tragedy about a Ukrainian immigrant family struggling to survive on an Alberta homestead in the late 1930's. It is a dark story, as the family slowly self destructs due to the various hardships they encounter...discrimination, the language barrier, mental health and substance abuse issues, and the unforgiving landscape. The author does a beautiful job of describing the landscape, and a decent job of describing farm life, although I am a tough critic on this part as I ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully told, tragic, engrossing story of Ukrainian Canadian pioneers.
May 26, 2011 rated it liked it
This may be the first distinctly Canadian book I've read in awhile. (I mean, I love Margaret Atwood, but as far as I know, she hasn't come out with anything new recently.) The story takes place in Alberta, Canada (!!) during the Great Depression, and follows the lives of a Ukrainian refugee family who have fled their home and settled in the bitter, unyielding prairies. When the book begins, the father has just been released from prison, where he served a sentence for stealing a bag of grains tha ...more
Julie Christine
Sep 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Julie Christine by: NY Times
Such a beautifully written, un-putdownable story of a Ukrainian immigrant family struggling to settle a homestead in the prairies of Alberta. It is some of the best storytelling I've read this year- full, rich characters, suspense and drama without melodrama, historical accuracy without pedantry.

I had to remind myself while reading that this was set in 1938 and not the 1870's. The families in the novel lived hand-to-mouth, farmed, built their homes, and lived their lives without electricity or
I chose this book initially for the Cross Canada Challenge. I expected it to be a snoozefest and wasn't all that keen on reading it. That's a strange approach to a book for me. Why would I even bother to read it if I was dreading it? I'm happy to say that I was surprised! I really enjoyed this book!

The writing was lyrical, and the imagery painted by the words was beautiful. The story was suspenseful and tragic.

This story was set in Alberta during the dirty thirties. It reminded me of my grandpa
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Under This Unbroken Sky is an incredible debut. The author tells the story of an Ukrainian family who immigrate to Canada in the 1930's, and face hardships, tragedy, poverty, prejudice and discrimination. Despite their hard lives, they often shine through with strength and determination. The author takes each character, including the children, and fleshes them out with substance and authenticity. The reader knows each person, seeing how they think and how they see the world. Each character is an ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it liked it
The stark and emotional story of a Ukrainian immigrant family in late 1930s Alberta, Canada. Hardship, hunger, and hard work are the main theme. A brother and his wife and family toil to make a home and a life on land signed for by the man's sister. The brother-in-law, consumed with greed and jealousy leaves his wife and children, comes back and tries to get control of the land and new house to sell them. His wife, broken by her husband's cruelty and emotionally detached from her children surviv ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bingo-2017
I loved this book. It is an epic family story about Ukrainian homesteaders in Alberta.
It really shows in detail the hardships of the immigrants who settled this land, and makes me look at the flat expanses f farmland across the prairies with a new respect.

The writing is superb, and the values and morals of the characters are messy, just like real life.

Paul Pessolano
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Under this Unbroken Sky” by Shandi Mitchell, published by Harper.

Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – September 08, 2009.

After two years in prison, for stealing his own grain, Teodor
Mykolayenko reunites with his family in rural Canada. The year is 1938 and times are hard.

Teodor tries to make a better life for his family on a small farm as he battles the elements. He not only works his farm but also works his sister’s farm not far from them. He must do this because her husband is
Amy Specht
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book makes you appreciate how easy we have it now.
Christine (booktumbling)
Jul 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!!!
This book is…wonderful, tragic, joyous, disturbing. It made me smile, cry and want to scream in anger. I fell in love with certain characters and despised others. It has been a while since a book has sparked so many emotions. Ms. Mitchell’s writing is so vivid, stark, truthful, beautiful and painful. I could hear the wind, smell the grasses during the spring and summer and feel the quilts the children slept under during the harsh winters. Each character in this book came alive in my mind. They a ...more
Jul 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a different type of book for me, totally outside of the normal genres I read. This may have been why it took me so long to finish it, as it was straight fiction. At first, I wasn't going to participate in the book club because the synopsis didn't appeal to me. However, I decided that the book was probably worth reading or it wouldn't have been chosen for the club, so I might as well give it a shot.

My hunch was right as this was an amazing book! Not amazing in the sense of stayin
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical novel set in Canada's northern prairies in the late 1930s. Ukrainian immigrants Teodor Mykolayenko, his wife Maria and their five children have escaped the oppression of Stalin's Soviet Union and settled on a homestead in western Canada. Having served a two-year sentence for stealing grain that belonged to him, Teodor returns to his family, which includes his sister Anna and her two children, and with demonic resolution sets out to clear the land and ensure his family's future in this ...more
Jul 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
The tension building in this novel was superb. It would build slowly like a roller coaster going up, up, up....but then it would coast a bit before building up, up, up again. The interim periods emphasized the bleakness of the families conditions in Canada as homesteaders, poor and foreign as well as outcast. I would have to say that as a debut novel, this one takes the best ribbon!

The story of Teodor and his sister Anna, along with their families struggle on the northern Canadian prairie in 19
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