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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian (2005) by Marina Lewcyka

Book Review
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian (2005)
by Marina Lewcyka

Replaced: The Colour (2003) by Rose Tremain (Review April 2018)

   I probably would have kept The Colour, Rose Tremain's excellent historical novel about 19th century gold fever in New Zealand, but is also to see what is attractive about A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, which is an English language book written by a Ukrainian immigrant to the UK, and deals with elder care issues as well as the issues of immigrant families in a way that is both humorous and sophisticated. 

  The Short History of the title refers to an always in progress monograph of family patriarch Nikolai, recently widowed by the death of his wife for over half a century, and worried over by his two daughters, Nadezha, the narrator, and her older sister, Vera.  The plot is set into motion when Nikolai announces his intention to marry Valentina, a thirty something recent immigrant from the Ukraine.  The daughters, who have been nursing a family feud for decades, unite against Valentina and in the process Lewcyka delicately addresses the mixed emotions that confront children with aging parents.

   Lewcyka ads further depth to the narrative by including flashbacks from Ukraine, which shaped the development of older sister Vera but were too early for Nadezha to experience.  These stories, related by Vera to Nadezha at quiet moments during the events of the anti-Valentina campaign, link Nikolai and his family to the larger, more horrific currents of the 20th century.

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