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The Silence of Trees

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In Chicago's Ukrainian Village, Nadya Lysenko has built her life on a foundation of secrets. When she was sixteen, Nadya snuck out of her house in Western Ukraine to meet a fortuneteller in the woods. She never expected it to be the last time she would see her family. Decades later, Nadya continues to be haunted by the death of her parents and sisters. The myths and magic of her childhood are still a part of her dreams unite friends across time and space, house spirits misplace keys and glasses, and a fortuneteller's cards predict the future. Nadya's beloved dead insist on being heard through dreams and whispers in the night. They want the truth to come out. Nadya needs to face her past and confront the secrets she buried. Too often the women of history have been silenced, but their stories have power-to reveal, to teach, and to transform. This is one such story.

334 pages, Paperback

First published September 23, 2010

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About the author

Valya Dudycz Lupescu

17 books144 followers
Valya Dudycz Lupescu has been making magic with food and words for more than 20 years, incorporating folklore from her Ukrainian heritage with practices that honor the Earth. Valya is the author of The Silence of Trees (Wolfsword Press) and founding editor of Conclave: A Journal of Character. Along with Stephen Segal, she is the co-author of Forking Good (Quirk Books) and Geek Parenting (Quirk Books) , and co-founder of the Wyrd Words storytelling laboratory. Valya earned her MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her publications include, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, Kenyon Review, Culture, and Strange Horizons.

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5 stars
904 (30%)
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622 (21%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 356 reviews
Profile Image for Sue.
1,240 reviews533 followers
July 20, 2012
This novel takes place in two worlds and times, Ukraine and Germany of World War II and contemporary Chicago where Nadya, the protagonist relocated some years after the war. But the entire novel is steeped in the Ukraine, from wartime memories to the traditions carried on in Nadya's Chicago household. The novel deals with memory, guilt, fear, trust, issues many survivors have, but in ways that are very specific to Nadya.

As we meet her, she is a middle-aged woman living with regret over decisions made. She loves her family but lives with memories of those who died in Ukraine, the family she lost, first love. Over the course of the novel we gradually see these wartime incidents through her eyes and learn why she feels guilt and fear. We also come to meet and know her family and friends.

This is a book about life, one woman's life and all the choices that she has made (or been forced to make). And it's about learning to live with those choices. I found that I enjoyed getting to know Nadya, learning about Ukrainian folklore and traditions within a home setting and also seeing WWII from another perspective. While this is historical fiction, it is also a very personalized story that might not appeal to everyone. I did like it and would recommend it to those who would like this combination.

Addendum: Having been asked to clarify my qualifications on my recommendations, I've thought about the book some more. I would add that I think the book would likely appeal more to women than to men. Also the reader has to be open to the presence of folklore and traditional elements throughout the contemporary story, including superstitions and magical elements. These are central to the character's life.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
November 18, 2015
This is a soft spoken story about making peace with the ghosts, demons and decisions of your past.

It starts in 1940s Ukraine with a teenage girl slipping out of her house in the dead of night to consult a gypsy about her love life. Upon her return she discovers her family home burned to the ground with Russian soldiers everywhere.

Fast forwarding fifty years, Nadya's story of war and loss is told through flashbacks as she tries to come to grips with the secrets she's kept all this time.

I loved the Ukrainian folk tales sprinkled thorough out as well as details about a wide variety of customs, ceremonies and superstitions brought to America by immigrants.

On the other side of this coin lies the ingrained prejudice and hatred carried by the survivors towards anything German and how these prejudices can be passed on from generation to generation.

The audio version added a wonderfully rich and foreign feeling to the experience. All thought the story was in my opinion a bit light in content around the invasion of Russia during WW2 I can still recommend it anyone who would like to find out more about Ukrainian folklore and beliefs.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,198 reviews269 followers
April 22, 2016
3.5 stars
I listened to this on audio, and although I loved the narrator's voice and her pronunciation of the Ukrainian words, I'm a bit sad that I did not read it. The writing was beautiful, and I think I would have enjoyed reading this slow, sorrowful story more if I could savor it in my own time.
I loved the descriptions of the Ukrainian traditions , myths and the use of magical realism throughout the book. Nadya didn't feel like a fictional character, but like a real-life person - she made mistakes, had regrets, doubted herself, grieved and lived a mostly content life while doing all of this. Most of the books I've read about WWII ended where the protagonist is saved or the war ended, and somehow I always had the idea of ...and they all lived happily ever. Obviously this is mostly not the case, as you still have to deal with everything that happened to you and your loved ones, afterwards. This process is what is described in The Silence of Trees. The reason it does not get a higher rating is that the ending felt too perfect, for me it did not fit the rest of the book.

The Story: One night, sixteen year old Nadya decides to sneak out into the woods near her Ukraine home to have her fortune told by a Gypsy. Upon her return, she discovers that her house has been burned down by the invading Germans. Nadya flees, fearing that her family has been killed and that she may be next. From there, the novel flashes deep into the future to Chicago, where Nadya had grown up and is now the matriarch of her own family.
Profile Image for Diane.
113 reviews4 followers
July 13, 2011
This book was really really good. I picked it pretty randomly -- just looking for something to read since my kindle is shot and I'm waiting for my [second!] replacement and so am using Jet's and don't have access to all the books I had already downloaded. I was determined not to spend more than 99cents and this book turned out to be worth much more than that.

The writing is really well done in that I cared about Nadya's story right from the get go. It has enough historical grit (the plight of ukranian people during wwII) to give the story some depth, but that historical grit is woven with folklore and a kind of lyrical sense of the world.

I do recommend this one.
Profile Image for Penumbra Publishing.
14 reviews7 followers
November 2, 2011
By Valya Dudycz Lupescu
Women’s Fiction
Reviewed by Willa Kaye Danes, author at Penumbra Publishing
99-cent Kindle ebook edition

The first thing I must say is ... I loved this story. It is one of the best stories I have read in a very long time. It is emotional and magical and mystical and truthful, full of secrets and regrets and fears and, finally, courage – courage to speak. This is a story about women, their voices, their pain, their connection to each other, and their love of family. Although it focuses on Ukrainian culture, it is a story that is so beautifully written, it can resonate with anyone of any nationality and of any age. It is perfect for a book club, to be shared and discussed.

The main character, Nadya, is a 70-year-old native of the Ukraine who emigrated to the US (Chicago) as a young wife and mother shortly after World War II. Her story is told in flashbacks and recollections that skip around in a non-chronological fashion that, rather than becoming a confusing mess, creates a carefully woven tapestry of emotional truths with threads of cultural heritage richly highlighting every part of the story. It explains the gap of generations so wonderfully, it should be required reading for every person under the age of 30. While there are reference to war’s atrocities, these references lend a realistic perspective to the reflections and attitudes of the characters to further help explain why oftentimes people are reluctant, even afraid, to speak up.

There is so much substance in this story, a mere few paragraphs cannot do it justice. Normally I don’t expect much from a 99-cent book, but I was joyfully overwhelmed by the quality and beauty of this story. If you haven’t read this book, you should do it now!

Willa Kaye Danes, author at Penumbra Publishing
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,734 reviews1,469 followers
December 12, 2011
Thius book disappointed me. I kept reading and reading hoping that I would be drawn in, hoping that I would come to care for the characters. I didn't leave any comments, because there wasn't much I felt I had to share with anyone. There were a few sentences that beautifully expressed thoguhts on love and pain and family. The message imparted is sweet and beautiful, but the way in which the story was told, just did not draw me in.

The primary problem with this book is that the reader is told by the first person narrator, a seventy year old woman, what has happened to her in her life. Living in the Ukraine during and after WW2 her family lived through the invasion by the Germans, then the Russians and then life under Stalin. We do not live the events with her. We are not shown what she felt and suffered Her life is summed up and told to us as she looks back upon it. Only at the end, which is quite lovely but at the same time predictable, are we the readers experiencing the events with her. Only then are we a part of her decision making choices. All previous was a summary told to us.

Ukranian myths, customs, traditions and mystical beliefs play a prominent role in the book. Through the text, I did learn about these beliefs and traditons, but they never sparkled or became magical.

So now you understand, I hope, why this book was a disappointment to me.
Profile Image for Dan W.
22 reviews
June 19, 2012
I was caught by the description of this book while looking for a new read. People seem to like it here on Goodreads as well so I gave it a shot. Set in WWII Ukraine the book starts strong with flavors of the magic and boundless possibility of youth set against the cold cruelty of war. Our hero sets out to find her future, but instead the future finds her.

The narrative pans between present day and flashback to the horrors of the war. The prose is lovely and lilting, and the smattering of brutality only serves to sweeten the lightness and joy of our narrator.

I stopped reading the book when I felt the plot slowly clunking into the rails of a made for TV movie. I didn't hear anything powerful and unique in the narration and with flat, cardboard character development I didn't latch on and care much about this mystery of the letter. I was caught more by the mystery of all the holes in the plot line, and when that happens the spell is broken.

This book has all the ingredients of a great novel, but it suffers from a common pitfall in personal narratives of telling me what's going on instead of showing me what's going on. I think it is better than most books in this category but wasn't a satisfying read for me. I'm taking the advice from other reviewers here in that life is too short for books that aren't riveting.

I put it down instead of trying to chew through the cardboard characters and plots holes that might rethread later in the book but didn't feel compelled to find out. Perhaps another time this book will sing, but for now I'll put it on the shelf and just imagine how it all worked out.
Profile Image for Jennifer (JC-S).
2,864 reviews198 followers
February 21, 2011
‘What else does an old woman have but memories and fantasies?’

In the present, Nadya Lysenko is a seventy year old woman living in Chicago, surrounded by her family: husband, children and grandchildren. Fifty years have elapsed since she last saw her parents and her sisters in the Western Ukraine, and Nadya has kept many secrets during those fifty years. At sixteen, Nadya left her home one night to meet a Gypsy fortune teller in the nearby woods. Nadya was keen to have her fortune told, and while she was away soldiers burned her family home. She could find no survivors, and after a period as a displaced person in a German labour camp, marries and emigrates to the USA.

‘I had no idea what that new life would look like, but I knew it could not include my past.’

Years later, Nadya remains haunted by the deaths of her parents and sisters. She feels guilty that she has survived and they have not and she wonders whether she could have changed the course of history by staying home that night. Nadya has never told her husband or children of her past, although she shares Ukrainian traditions and customs with them. This legacy of her past, the importance of these myths and of their magic, can be shared: house spirits must be taken care of, and dreams treated with respect. But through guilt and fear she does not speak of the people who were part of her life.

But then events make Nadya realise that the past cannot always be kept separate from the present, and that keeping secrets does not always protect those she cares about. Nadya discovers, too, that accepting and speaking about the past leads to other possibilities and opportunities in her own life.

I loved this novel. Nadya’s story – both past and present - is engrossing. Her experiences are both a poignant reminder of the destruction and disruption of lives during World War II, and of the resilience of the human spirit.

‘Names made connections between the dead and the living.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Profile Image for Cindy Gelpi.
60 reviews5 followers
May 13, 2011
If you like historical fiction and books that bring another culture to life, this is a must-read!

Having not known much about the history of the Ukrainian people during the second World War, reading this story was like taking a walk in the shoes of the narrator, 70 year-old Nadya Lysenko, and reliving her heart-wrenching experiences during this turbulent and hellish time. We feel her intense and conflicting feelings towards her first love Stephan, her deep guilt and confusion over a simple decision to leave the house one night to visit a fortune-telling gypsy, and her survivor's guilt when so many around her perish and she manages not only to survive, but thrive. Decisions she makes in an attempt to survive her ordeal come back to haunt her later during her relatively normal life in the U.S. after the war. Lupescue successfully weaves the tale from the past to the present, and the reader slowly becomes aware of all Nadya is holding inside and keeping from her children, grandchildren and even her husband. The reader feels the pressure and pain of bearing so many secrets and begins to understand why the generation who lived through this travesty may not care to discuss their past.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to learn about another culture and experience history in an up-close and personal manner. The poetic nature of the novel, the use of trees and nature as symbols, the folkloric and superstitious manner the narrator uses to describe her memories all blend together to make this a rich novel worthy of a second reading or discussion by a reading group or history class. I think the book would be a great accompaniment to a college international studies course, especially one that focuses on eastern Europe. Like the pysanky egg, the book has layers and details that all come together beautifully in the end. Some may say the ending is a little too neat, but I like the hopeful note the author concludes on.

Can you tell I really loved this book?

Profile Image for Allison.
82 reviews20 followers
April 16, 2012
One of my favourite feelings is that moment of triumph you experience when you have just finished a good book.
Triumph because you have been edified and uplifted. Triumph because you now have a handful of quotes to add to your mental collection. Triumph because for the duration of the book, you felt a connection to the author.
From beginning to end, this book held my attention. The narrative style helps to create and maintain that connection to the author, I feel like the persona was sitting with me, telling me her tale. As I laughed, cried, and imagined her life...I felt empowered. The story isn't perfect, but it's a story that deserves to be told.

No self-pity here, this lady is resilient and even though burdened by the intense guilt she feels, she has made the most of an unfortunate situation and created a life for herself far removed from her homeland.
I love how the author explains parts of the Ukrainian culture throughout the story, giving you glimpses into the rich culture so reverent of nature and man's place in the universe.
She intertwines mysticism with the very real backdrop of World War II, there were some moments I found difficult to read because of the obvious pain of the characters. The story is beautifully tied together using present day narrative and flashbacks from the persona's past.
So many memorable quotes, and stories/analogies that relate to life...this could have easily been a series featuring the persona.
However, if there is one lesson I will take away from this book it's that you need to be grateful for your life - both the good and the bad and learn to let go of guilt, pain and suffering.
"Let yourself love the past, but live the present."

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a well-crafted story.
657 reviews
February 23, 2011
This story artfully blends several themes as we learn about a young girl from the Ukraine whose life is uprooted by WWII. The book addresses the nature of fate, the importance of traditions and family, the ability for the human spirit to overcome loss and tragedy and create a meaningful life. Interspersed throughout the story are mystical elements and superstitions that are presented in such a matter of fact way that one believes that such elements are in everyone's life, if only we would pay attention. Enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Papercuts1.
234 reviews93 followers
April 25, 2012
(to read this review in German, go to www.buchstapelweise.wordpress.com)

I came to this audiobook via the tweets of the narrator herself, Xe Sands, while she was recording THE SILENCE OF TREES. The quotes were touching, mysterious, poetic. And Xe's voice, which I know from other occasions, was a very promising fit for the story. So I decided to buy the audiobook from iambik.com. (btw, they were extremely helpful when I messed up the first download attempt – great service, also for non-US customers like me!).

THE SILENCE OF TREES turned out to be a wonderful choice. It is one of those stories that are woven like a quilt. The ones that sweep you up, take you on a journey. The central element is not the plot itself – if you want to call the mystery surrounding the empty envelope a 'plot', that is. There IS a plot in the part of the book that takes place in the present, but it's sidelined for large stretches while, instead, Nadya's past is being pieced together, like a puzzle.

And that past is rich: There is little Nadya growing up in a poor family in the Ukraine; the traumatic loss of her parents and sibling; her ensuing time in Germany, first as a forced laborer, then in a displaced persons camp; her emigration to the USA – piece by piece and in a first person narration, Nadya retells her life, introducing us to the remarkable people who've crossed her path, and to those she loves.

And, over and over, that journey is defined by pain and loss, and also by guilt that Nadya places on herself. Out of fear, she changes her family name, leaving it behind in Europe. She hides the fate of her family even from her own husband – the troubled, surprising Pavlo. And there's something else she hides from him – a desperate, guilt-ridden decision that she makes in the camp in Germany.

When the story shifts from her memories to present-day Chicago, we meet Nadya's own children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. That's a lot of people, and the names and relations remain confusing for quite a while. I found it difficult to understand who belongs with whom and to which generation. It took me half the book to sort everyone out – the only flaw I could find in the audiobook.

Together, under Nadya's lead, the large family keeps their Ukrainian heritage and traditions alive. House spirits need to be appeased, ancestors have to be included into celebrations, and traditional dishes from the Ukraine are served on holidays, to the sound of old fairy tales and legends.
As adamant as Nadya is about keeping he painful aspects of her past a secret – she's deeply rooted in the folklore, mythology and traditions of her people. One feels her wistfulness, her pain, but also the strength Nadya gathers from holding on to her roots. Her past, just as much as it is her wound, is also her anchor.

Her daughter Katya and her granddaughter Lessia stir at these wounds, urging her to open up about the past. Pressure increases when Lessia starts dating a young man of German ancestry and an important figure from Nadya's own past suddenly reappears in her life. And then, once again, the gypsy's prophecy turns into reality. Again, Nadya is faced with loss – and the decision to either be broken by it or move on, into the future.

There is SO much packed into this journey that Nadya takes us on– pride, grief, love, prejudice, hate and friendship. Lectures on the bitterness of life and the inexorability of the people. Old wisdom encrypted in fairy-tales and stories and dreams. Rituals we cling to in times of turmoil. And one of the main themes is the connection between past, present and future. It's about holding on to the things that make you strong and letting go of the ones that pull you down.

In several aspects, THE SILENCE OF TREES reminded me of THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht. Both books focus on stories and memories, deeply entwined with their respective folklore and culture. Both waive a linear, stringent plot in favor of these 'stories' (although Lupescu eventually and bravely returns to her storyline and leads it to a convincing ending). Both are 'slow' books, requiring breaks to process. These are not books to burn through. In terms of language, both novels are somberly sensual and poetic.

Bottom line:

THE SILENCE OF TREES is one of those books into whose hands you need to give yourself, surrendering to its themes, structure and texture. Readers/listeners interested in other cultures and history will immerse themselves in and learn a lot from it. Complex characters (above all, Nadya) and their development are the heart of this novel and touch at the reader's own experiences and emotions. Lupescu's language is that of clear poetry, perfectly relayed by the narrator.

Those expecting a swift, linear storyline with a clear-cut structure and easily categorized characters will be disappointed. To them, THE SILENCE OF TREES will appear dragging, confusing and poor in plot and action. This is not their book.

For me, personally, this audiobook was a very emotional ride and a deep experience. It made me think, it made me smirk and it also made me cry. In comparison, the thriller I began reading right after, although being really good, felt like an empty shell.

The narrator:

Xe Sands was born for this kind of story. Her voice embodies mystery, broken emotionality and gravitas. When she narrates an audiobook, she endows every sentence with depth and weight. Which doesn't mean she can't convey lightheartedness! Just look at Lessia and the cheerful power of youth she radiates, courtesy of Xe. But Nadya, with her seventy plus years, can't be narrated without a certain weight. Xe Sands wonderfully manages to equip her with toughness and matriarchal authority in the dialogues whereas, during the introspective passages and memories, she lets her appear very soft and vulnerable.

I highly recommend Xe Sands to anyone with a taste for intense narration. She always brings sensuality and drama to a book and modulates her voice accordingly. Also, she is one of those narrators who pay a lot of attention to the authenticity of accents and dialect without ever exaggerating.

And, last but not least, Xe is very active on twitter (@xesands). Tweeting back and forth with her while listening to THE SILENCE OF TREES made this listen an intensive and very special audiobook experience.

Profile Image for Ksenia.
Author 3 books14 followers
December 21, 2010
Mythology, traditions, and folklore blend into the weave of a woman's life as she struggles to come to terms with her past and carve out a new life and new beginnings. I was blown away by the richness of the prose, the intensity of a story that spans different time periods and different continents, and most of all, by how seamlessly Valya Dudycz Lupescu was able to connect all the complex threads and satisfy the reader on so many different levels - narrative, style, character. At first I read slowly, savoring each chapter but the more I began living in Nadya's world the more I found I couldn't put the novel down! What a stunning debut!
Profile Image for MissSusie.
1,387 reviews212 followers
April 16, 2012
This book is beautiful and mesmerizing, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time. I love the superstitions interwoven into the story and how storytelling is so important to the Ukrainian people.

Nadya is 70 years old but still haunted by events in the Ukraine that happened during WWII when she was really a mere child. But this is also about family and the things we keep to ourselves and the things we think others don’t know and how that affects how we live our lives and the relationships we have.

I love that you think Nadya & Pavlov’s relationship is one thing and then as the story unfolds you realize it is something completely different. Ugh how can I explain how this made me feel without spoilers let’s just say with the way it starts out I didn’t expect it to progress as it did. Oh my goodness Pavlov was so not what I expected him to be from the first half of the book. The way I felt about Pavlov was like a rollercoaster ride.

Oh Nadya I just want to hug you and tell you to let things go, explain your life to your children let them really know you and allow yourself to be happy!

I loved the Ukrainian folklore and the holiday rituals in this book and it made me want to do research to incorporate some of these into my own holidays especially the parts about honoring your ancestors it was so beautiful!

The first part of this review is thoughts and feelings I had as I was listening to it. This book evoked such emotion and the narration by Xe Sands brought those emotions through beautifully, the combination of Valya’s writing and Xe’s narration is so great both story and narration are lyrical. Xe’s soft delivery lends beautifully to the written word.

If you can’t tell already I loved this book so much I will be buying the paper book for my public library and if there is ever a cd version I will buy that for the library too. I would recommend this for a book club selection too, I think it would bring about great discussions and if you are a book club that does food and the like from the books you read this one would be perfect for that.

When I was finished I wanted to hit play and start it all over again! I think this book, Nadya and the traditions are something I will think about long after I am done. I also look forward to reading more by this author.

I highly recommend this book!

5 Stars
Profile Image for Megan.
50 reviews6 followers
July 12, 2011
I have mixed feelings about this book. While I loved the history (the German invasion of the Soviet Union) and the traditions that Nadya tried to hard to keep alive with her family, I felt that the story jumped around a lot. This might have been more a technical issue with the book (it was downloaded onto my Kindle, and I have found that sometimes there are typos or issues with spacing in Kindle books). There weren't larger spaces between Nadya's memories and her real, present-day life, which could get confusing at times, especially since several of her children were named after people she had met when she lived in Ukraine. Without the obvious change in font or space, it would be confusing for several lines before I would realize where and when that part of the story was taking place. Nadya's memories and stories were much more interesting to me than her present-day life in Chicago -- which I suppose is to be expected, considering that in Chicago she was an old woman with a very peaceful life, so different from her violent past in Ukraine. It also dragged a little bit in parts. This book was short (only 312 pages) but it took me almost five days to read.

I would recommend it to someone who really likes Soviet history, or Russian folklore, and who likes exploring the emotions of their main character. That's really the majority of this book.
Profile Image for Gillie.
4 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2012
Nadya Lysenko is an old woman that we meet in the present day, living in Chicago's Ukrainian community. We hear her story in flashbacks, from her beginnings as a peasant girl in the Ukraine during the horror of WWII, through workcamps and "Displaced Person" camps, through loves lost and found, through deaths and destruction. And in the midst of all of it, there is woven her orthodox Catholic faith and the folklore of her native country. These two seemingly disparate belief systems exist perfectly well with each other and bring her a way to survive it all.

The amazing thing, is that this is not a depressing story. It is engrossing and completely believable. In the end, it is love that wins; forgiveness and the strength we find in one another prevail. It does help that she can see and communicate with some of her ghosts, and therefore, learn lessons she might have missed when they were alive.

Having lived in Chicago in the 1980's, I felt like I knew Nadya, or women very much like her. She feels real to me; I like that.
Profile Image for Sandy.
157 reviews
September 12, 2011
Set in the Ukraine, Germany, and Chicago before, during, and after World War II, The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu is a story of regret and hope, tradition and change, truth and truth again. As a young woman, Nadya is preoccupied by the future; she forgets the present, and the present slips away on the most brutal of terms. Haunted all her life by visions of what might have been, time and fate seem to conspire to allow this woman to taste her dreams and to be satisfied.

Lupescu's novel is rich in details about Ukrainian customs that seem to be as old as time itself, that survive Hitler and Stalin, that find a home to thrive in in Chicago.

The Silence of Trees asks Nadya who she is and where her heart is and what she is willing to do for those she says she loves. Ultimately, loving comes down to telling her stories, that she might be here, now.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,005 reviews
September 6, 2012
Beautiful, lyrical book told through flashbacks of Nadya, a Ukrainian woman who as a young girl survived the horrific events in the Ukraine as the Germans fled and the Russians approached towards the end of World War II. The book is told through Nadya’s memories and flashbacks and she reflects on her choices and lifetime consequences of those choices. I loved the Ukrainian folklore, traditions, and superstitions that were woven throughout, especially the importance of family. I am not a person who likes to cry at books or likes books that make me cry, but the end of this book was an exception to that rule for me. There are a zillion books about WWII, but this is a fresh look and worth the read, highly recommend.
Profile Image for Janice.
1,156 reviews66 followers
December 22, 2013
I really enjoyed this story of a woman who lost everything in Ukraine when German soldiers invaded her village. She fought those demons all her life in silence. It's a story of renewed life as she slowly faced those demons.

I found the story to be lyrical and poetic which created the mystical fairy tale feel as the story is steeped in the beliefs and legends of the Ukrainian people.

The narration by Xe Sands added an ethereal quality to the story. This is the first book that I have listened to that was read by her and I was very impressed.
Profile Image for Nicole.
126 reviews
March 27, 2011
Wow, this was only 0.99 to download at B&N.
My friend recommended this book to me and I loved it. I think my book club members might like it too so I'm going to recommend it the next time we plan out books. It's historical fiction, but not too heavy on the history of which my fellow members are not passionate about like me. It's a multiple-layered story to promote discussion and contains diverse characters whose intentions could be interpreted in different ways.
Profile Image for Nanci de Suffren.
132 reviews21 followers
September 26, 2011
I seldom read a book that truly resonates as deeply as this book. The story of Nadya, a child of an ugly war, grown into a women imprisoned by her guilt and regret is rich in the values of family, tradition and the love that ultimately gives her the courage to break out of her self-imposed prison. This is a story that teaches so many lessons - forgiveness, family, tradition and above all love. I will recommend this book to everyone as a "must read."
Profile Image for Jackie.
595 reviews9 followers
August 16, 2012
10 Stars! This story is full of so much emotion that I found the last pages hard to see thru my tears. Filled with traditions, rituals, broken and fullfilled dreams, lost and found love, brutal facts of war and, above all, hope. You will find yourself wanting to sit and have coffee with these people.
O, and for the person on Amazon who reviewed it as an editing error because New Year's was celebrated before Christmas...all I can say is look up Ukranian holidays.
1 review
December 8, 2010
A very moving and beautifully written novel. The author's unique phrasing gave such a tangible tension to all Nadya's emotions, both repressed and occasionally freed. Several people close to me during my life were survivors of the Soviet-Nazi-Soviet persecution. This helped explain to me, in many ways, why they chose never to talk about the details. A very well written novel.
1 review
September 5, 2011
Diane, very well said. It has just enough of everything without becoming a historical account. A well written book should leave you feeling really satisfied that upon conclusion your time was not a waste, and the best will also leave you thirsty enough to desire a sequel!
Profile Image for Laura.
Author 10 books2 followers
October 28, 2011
Fantastic book, and total surprise purchasing it on a whim. Wonderful description of a culture I know little about.
Profile Image for Abrah.
2 reviews1 follower
May 10, 2012
Few books bring tears to my eyes. This story openned my heart wide.
Profile Image for Mireserenya.
21 reviews7 followers
May 16, 2011
4.5 Stars

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, Eastern European folklore, or how history can have a lingering effect on a character's actions.

The Silence of Trees is a moving book on the effects of war, love, family, tradition, community and truly living. Throughout the book, Ms. Lupescu blends a great deal of Ukrainian folklore into the story, almost making the folklore a character on it's own. The folklore adds greatly to both the depth of her characters and the world they have lived in.

The time shifting between modern day and the World War II era is done well and is crucial to understanding the protagonist. There were a few moments when the transitions in time were a little hurried and rough, but you could still understand that time had shifted. Also, there are some plot lines that I don't feel were quite resolved and some characters that floated on the periphery that seemed to be not quite fleshed out (Robin and Zirka). Overall, The Silence of Trees is a delightful read with only a few minor rough patches.
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137 reviews36 followers
April 19, 2012
I have just finished reading The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu. This is a story of a woman, born and living in the Ukraine at the time of the German occupation who suffered the loss of all family and friends and saw many horrific acts of war during WWII and in the aftermath.

Afterwards, she married a former Ukrainian soldier, moved to the United States, settled in Chicago and had a fruitful life but she was tortured by nightmares of the war and what she had seen there. She did not confide anything of what happened to her and around her to anyone, not even her husband. In the course of the book she learned to open up. She was finally able to exorcize her ghosts and share her story with her family. She also learned to put away her past and look to the future. Although she had lived through much hardship and pain she learned that love of family and hope are the all-important ingredients of a happy and successful life.

I was skeptical about this book as I began to read it but was quickly pulled in by the writer's well-done imagery and I am very glad it was recommended to me. It is a very special book. I recommend it to all.
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Author 7 books12 followers
June 18, 2012
Let this book be an example for all of those who claim I only hate Twilight and Eragon because of the bad grammar and poor punctuation. Lupescu's book was amazing. Normally, historical fiction is not up my alley, because it was how I learned history in my years homeschooling (and was therefore a chore and not a pleasure). However, this book was very much grounded in the emotional journey of the main character, who was startlingly empathetic for being someone I would dislike in real life. And amidst all of the well-researched and well-crafted story, a host of grammatical and punctuation errors lurked. Though I noticed them now and then, it was much less of a distraction than it is when the content of the writing is just as terrible.

I learned a lot from Nadya and her journey. I cried a lot along the way - beware, this is a three-tissue-box book - but I also drew a lot of strength and encouragement from the lessons Nadya learned. This is a perfect example of how fiction can teach so much more than any non-fiction self-help volume.
Profile Image for Adri.
543 reviews26 followers
March 3, 2013
I hesitated reading this book as it was once again about WWII. But I am glad that I decided to read it. For one it enlightened me about the plight of Ukrainian people during WWII. It astounds me how big and powerful nations can walk over smaller nations as if they are of no consequence. Yet these smaller nations are made up of people who have over centuries forged a bond, a connection with their little corner of the earth that no hardship can ever sever. They may become 'displaced people', but their hankering after their home soil never leaves them. In their new countries they gravitate towards their own people, continue their traditions, create 'Little Italys' and 'China Town' and become 'Ukrainian Americans', etc. but always, always longing for the 'old country'.

This book beautifully describes all of this, and cloaks it in rich folklore and mythology. It is a painful journey, but one in which the main character ultimately makes peace with the heartache and pain she has had to endure and allows herself, finally, to allow some happiness into her life.
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