Finished Reading “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”

What a poignant story written by Marina Lewycka, where to begin?  This book “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian” depicts a dysfunctional family in the many layers she produces in this quick read of 324 pages.  For those who know their Soviet history in Ukraine, there will be nothing new about the different locations mentioned and what the Ukrainians underwent during the famine of 1932-33, Great Patriotic War and post war year repressions. 

For those people from the West who know little to nothing about the Soviet period of collectivization, industrialization, famine, purges, repressions, the reader is compelled forward, the author deftly records historical fact.  The reason you read on through the somber details is really the underlying fabric with the bright ornamentation of the character development of the 46 year old daughter Nadia who writes in first person about her Big Sis Vera.  The two sisters team up to help their 84 year old father struggle against the demon 36 year old hussy from Ukraine, Valentina who marries him to improve her lot in life in England.

Meanwhile, the engineer father who is probably certifiably crazy is paranoid and love starved, writes a short history that is woven throughout about tractors.  The eccentric father was the Big Idea guy who was married to the two sisters mother for 60 years, she was the one who had the Ukrainian friends in their community in England. Masterfully composed from beginning to end, this book reminded me once again that I had just finished reading another book (The Help) that was layered with family stories tied up in political big picture drama in the U.S. in the 1960s. 

Not sure I can read too many more of these emotional books about families being so far away from my own family during this Thanksgiving season.  I just learned that a colleague lost a one year old niece to swine flu. The one fear we as foreigners have is losing a loved one while living so far away.  It happens. Family is very valuable and blood does run thicker than water.

Here is one painting at the TENGRI-UMAI art gallery, here in Almaty, Kazakhstan that I enjoyed looking at. It reminds me of my Mom and three sisters, our sitting around the piano making music with singing and stringed instruments.  Looking back, I came from a fairly normal family.  For that I am thankful.

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