In the spring of 1937, Teodor Mykolayenko returns to his struggling family after a year spent in prison for the crime of trying to feed them. His wife and children have been living under the care of his sister Anna on the harsh and unforgiving prairie landscape. A survivor of war, labour camp, and Stalin’s crimes in Ukraine, Teodor is determined to make a new life for his family, and so he takes to the land with desperation and resolve.
As the crops grow so does the strength of the children and Teodor’s willpower, but the family peace is soon disrupted by the return of Anna’s rogue husband who has been unable to find a backer for a get-rich scheme that involves buying land along the railway line. Tensions between the two men heighten as Stefan increasingly treats Teodor like a hired hand and demands a cut from the sales of the crops. Soon the family is splintered with a brother pitted against his sister, a son against his mother, and a mother against her newborn, leading to an unforgettable tragic climax.
A novel about family, struggle, survival, and the resiliency of the human spirit, Under This Unbroken Sky is an emotionally resonant tale told with cinematic aplomb by a passionate new storyteller.
Praise for Shandi Mitchell’s Under This Unbroken Sky:
Winner of the 2012 Kozbar Literary Award
Winner of the 2010
Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Caribbean and Canada Best First Book
Winner of the 2010 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award
Winner of the 2010 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
A Waterstone’s New Voices 2010 selection (UK)
One of Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for 2009
September 2009 Indie Next List
A Selection for the Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club
Longlisted for the 2011 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
“Compelling, captivating and well worth reading.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“Teems with life. Mitchell has already made a name for herself as a director and screenwriter. With Under This Unbroken Sky, she proves that a good storyteller excels, no matter what medium she chooses.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“This stunning first novel is powerful, tragic and utterly gripping.” —The Times (UK)
“Dazzling.... This depiction of Depression-era prairie life has a vividness and veracity that brings to mind Willa Cather’s fiction. Mitchell is a writer of immense talent.” —Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
“Beautifully drawn characters, flawless descriptions of an unrelenting landscape and the intricate plot add to this harrowing, breathtaking novel... Not to be missed.” —She (UK)
“Shandi Mitchell’s impressive debut may not sound like your typical beach read but this tautly controlled epic should keep those in search of some holiday literary escapism hooked until the last page all the same.” —Metro
“Set in 1938 in the unforgiving northern Canadian prairie, this debut novel is the story of a Ukrainian immigrant and his family, who find another ruthless war to fight. Mitchell weaves a haunting debut story with characters that sit in your soul, poignantly exposing their love and betrayal, strength and frailty. A stellar piece of storytelling that has you from beginning to end.” —Helen Markus, HearthFire Books of Evergreen, Evergreen, CO
“A beautiful story about two families who have nothing, yet manage to strip each other of everything.” —Easy Living Magazine (UK)
“The starkly gorgeous prairie comes alive ... Combining the storytelling skills of Ivan Doig with the stunning landscapes in Karen Fisher’s A Sudden Country, Mitchell’s harrowing story delivers an unforgettable literary tribute to an immigrant people and their struggle. The lyrical style, the riveting historical material, and the treatment of prejudice make the novel a great book-club choice.” —Booklist, starred review
“Utterly gripping... Beautifully pitched and unsentimental in execution. Brilliant.” —Marie Claire (UK)
“Under This Unbroken Sky crushed and inspired me simultaneously, a novel I didn’t want to end. Shandi Mitchell’s prose strikes like a prairie thunderstorm, every page building to an intensity that’s simply awing to behold. Brilliant and honest and brutal, this new voice feels as old and right as anything I’ve read in a very long time.” —Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce
“A magnificent novel … a powerhouse of a debut that grips from start to finish.” —Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
“The tragedy Shandi Mitchell explores in her new novel is as unforgettable as the truth and stark beauty of its telling. It is a tragedy forged as much by the arrogance and ignorance of Canada’s treatment of Ukrainian immigrants to the prairies as by the passions bred by hunger and hopelessness among those immigrants themselves. Mitchell’s extraordinary rendering of human suffering is matched by her ability to give powerful imaginative shape to the will to survive, to care for others, and to forgive the most brutal of trespasses.” —Janice Kulyk Keefer, author of The Ladies’ Lending Library
“This is an epic piece of storytelling, heavy with the sweep of a landscape that rules the lives of one Ukrainian family, who must fight for a better life in the darkness of the 1930s.” —Waterstones Books Quarterly
“This heartbreaking debut unpacks a thorny family tragedy framed against a beautiful and unrelenting landscape.” —Good Book Guide (UK)
Length: 354 pp
Setting: rural Canada
Canadian rights, Penguin Canada
Chinese (complex) rights, Commonwealth
Dutch rights, Orlando/AW Bruna
Hebrew rights, Kinneret
Italian rights, Fazi
UK rights, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
US rights, HarperCollins
For all other rights contact The Cooke Agency.
Photo credit: Becky Parsons
||Shandi Mitchell spent her childhood on a military base in the Prairies but now makes her home on the East Coast of Canada. Her award-winning films have been featured at festivals across North America, and Under This Unbroken Sky is her first novel.