Three Ukrainian women—a mother, daughter, and granddaughter—forge connections and evolve while the Soviet Union collapses around them.
Bitter cold permeates many of the scenes in this aptly titled novel. From harsh Soviet Ukrainian winters to icy weather abroad, the climate is an often hostile force that reflects the political and emotional drama that unfolds. The work offers a multigenerational family story. The father, Lyaksandro Hadeon Rosomakha, must leave his home, his wife, and his daughter after being caught spying for Ukrainian nationalists. He journeys to London, where he assumes a new identity in shame, far from his family. But this tale isn’t about Lyaksandro. Rather, Brown focuses on the women he left behind: Ivanna, his wife; and Yevtsye, his daughter. Moving from the 1970s to the present day, the story chronicles the women’s experiences, providing a rich overview of the end of the Soviet Union and the intellectual and social unrest that creates an independent Ukraine. The most intriguing moments explore the tensions between mother and daughter, who represent contrasting views of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian nationalism. Ivanna is a secular Communist Party loyalist, while her daughter is swept up by the appeals for Ukrainian autonomy and by the Orthodox Church. But through these women’s eyes, momentous events in history and economic and social policies become catalysts to explore a dynamic familial relationship and highlight how the duo survives in the face of outside pressures, including food shortages and political turbulence. Eventually, Yevtsye welcomes her own daughter, Ionna, into the family (which includes her husband, Danya). When Ionna’s birth leads to Yevtsye’s postpartum depression, the story offers a vivid, complementary series of glimpses of motherhood in which the complicated emotions of one mother-daughter pair are examined next to those of another. Ultimately, Ionna, who grows up craving to become a writer, brings the engrossing narrative forward from the end of the 20th century into the 21st. While there’s a great deal of improbability in her portion of the tale, with plenty of airport hijinks, Ionna’s story of her own struggle for survival (mirroring her mother’s and grandmother’s) brings the novel—and many of its threads—to a satisfying and resonant close.
A compassionate, balanced, and engaging look at generational conflict—and resolution—during social upheaval.
- Kirkus Reviews
Teri M Brown, author of Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, connects women with characters they'd love to invite to lunch.
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