Wretched Land Review

This decade-spanning saga of a family in eastern Ukraine begins in 1907 and ends with Ukraine's independence in 1991. The story follows the lives of Dmytro and Khrystina Verbitsky and is based on the lives of the author's grandparents. They lived through several famines (including the Holodomor), the Bolshevik Revolution, WWII, the death of Stalin, and finally the slow disintegration of the USSR.

The book was a page-turner. The story is very well-written and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this era of history. There's a lot of the historical framework added so that the reader understands the bigger context and not just this particular family's experiences. My only quibble would be that I'd have liked a family tree added. The Verbitsky couple had such a large family and I had trouble keeping track of them. I had to keep turning back and forth to remind myself.

But quibble aside, the book is full of positive vibes, in spite of much sadness. It's obvious that a lot of soul went into the creation of this work. On more than one occasion I was brought to tears. One example is during the German retreat when the collective's barn is set ablaze and Khrystina almost dies.

Another profound moment is right near the end of the book after the war. It's peacetime now, yet the family is still having difficulties. Khrystina says, "What's wrong with out children, Dymtro? Why are they so cruel to other people?" And Dymytro replies, "Nothing is wrong with our children. It's the war. It has made them cruel."

The book is brimming with wisdom and love in spite of personal tragedy. It's powerful stuff and I wish the author, Mila Komarnisky, much success with it.

Visit her website for more info. www.komarnisky.com

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