Decisions hold consequences beyond those who make them, sometimes resonating through generations. That's one of the messages in Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, a historical novel which follows the interconnected lives of three generations of women changed by the Ukraine's downfall under the Soviets and an act of betrayal.
Simple people can be transformed by political strife and events that reach into their homes and lives: "How had he gone from a simple man – Lyaksandro Hadeon Rosomakha – a university employee, a son, a father, and a husband – to a man facing a decision at the end of a gun? What had pulled him into a life littered with secret meetings, men with no names, and information passed in the hours between darkness and dawn?"
What is worth living and dying for when everything changes and personal survival takes precedence over moral and ethical foundations? Ukrainian rebel Lyaksandro's choice resonates through the psyches of Ivanna, Ionna, and Yevtsye.
Vivid passages capture these characters and the conundrums they face as political influence and rebellion change their lives and loves forever: "He regarded his hands, realizing they were capable of both stroking his wife’s cheek and effectively signing her death certificate."
While readers receive a good deal of history about the Soviet takeover of the Ukraine and events that happen afterwards, there is no need for prior familiarity with any of these events.
Teri M. Brown crafts a story that operates on emotional levels. It uses history and politics as a backdrop for closely considering love, hate, betrayal, and redemption. This allows the story to be solidly cemented in interpersonal relationships and the concurrent choices of three women affected by circumstance, those around them, and their own hearts.
As Yevt summons the courage to share family secrets with her prodigy, who will carry their consequences to future generations, readers receive a powerful story that excels in its examination of the long-term, wide-ranging effects of these choices: "Her father’s death was a turning point in her life, and one that obviously still caused her pain, but it was a pain she didn’t share. He often considered the silence on the matter was to protect herself from further pain as much as it was to protect her mother."
The result is a compelling novel of different generations changed by events both within and beyond their control.
Sunflowers Beneath the Snow represents an intersection of facts and fiction that proved challenging for Brown to capture ("Sunflowers Beneath the Snow...did not start with a spark, but rather a red-hot coal...it took me three years to figure out how to stay true to her experiences, while at the same time, staying true to the craft of fiction writing. Although names have been changed and circumstances are of my own creation, the basic premise of the story is true. This is, without a doubt, a case where truth is far more powerful than fiction.").
Readers will depart with both a thoroughly absorbing read that teaches them about the Ukraine at a key, pivotal point in its history just when people best need to understand these past events in order to absorb the present-day challenges that nation faces.
Historical fiction collectors will find Sunflowers Beneath the Snow an enlightening, compelling read.
Teri M Brown, author of An Enemy Like Me and Sunflowers Beneath the Snow connects readers with characters they'd love to invite to lunch.
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