By: Teri M. Brown
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: December 2021
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: December 27, 2021
Teri Brown welcomes her audience to a bittersweet story that highlights the myriad of challenges three generations of Ukrainian women of substance face in her debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow.
Ivanna’s beautiful life is torn to shreds the morning she opens her door to uniformed officers. It would seem her beloved Lyaksandro has betrayed her and the comforts she was accustomed to—shelter from the storm, food, and memories of her beloved husband, are all shattered within seconds. Ivanna and her adoring daughter Yevtsye must now brave the endless battle of survival in Soviet Ukraine. What Ivanna may never learn is the truth behind Lyaksandro’s betrayal.
In 1973 Soviet Ukraine, what had happened to Lyaksandro Rosomakha that saw him go from ‘...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 passing the hours between darkness and dawn?’ Simply put, Lyaksandro was a Ukrainian spy, and he was at the crossroads of having to choose life or death. Life, on the one hand would mean from the moment of his decision forward, he would have to leave his wife and child and never see them again. The latter option was if he decided not to leave his family for a ‘greater plan,’ which meant that his handlers would execute him on the spot. However, had Lyaksandro known his final destiny, perhaps he would have welcomed death as the alternative...
Meanwhile, Ivanna is reeling from the information her husband has died at the hands of a jealous lover and she grieves not only over his betrayal, but the fact he is dead. In true warrior fashion, Ivanna must pick up the pieces of her life and make a way for her and her young daughter Yevtsye. After the multitude of sacrifices Ivanna makes over the years, imagine her pain when she believes the only child she has done so much for seems to betray her as well.
I was intrigued by this body of work by Ms. Brown. She has done a superb job of treating her readership to multiple layers and complexities of life and survival in a communist/socialist country. It is also quite relevant in today’s global climate of unrest among certain nations. Ms. Brown spends an admirable amount of time and patience in the development of her characters which gives her audience a sense of walking alongside her as she tells the story. I was especially intrigued by Yevtsye’s (Ivanna’s daughter) character because Ms. Brown intentionally gave her a nuance of being the ‘rebel’ to speak out against the communist world she lived in. While Ms. Brown also strategically leads the reader to what her audience hopes the prevailing conclusion will be, the journey to get there is not predictable. I enjoyed this book and look forward to what Ms. Brown has in store for her audience in her next book.
Quill says: Sunflowers Beneath the Snow is a testament to the will and perseverance of women who embrace challenge and refuse to give up.
For more information on Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, please visit the author's website at: terimbrown.com