Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Family Poisoned

Mission accomplished. I can finally stop writing about Sherlock Holmes because I completed my reading of the entire collection. It took me longer to do that than to read the entire Bible. As a final note, I met two people last week who also were in the midst of Sherlock Holmes books. Did I start a trend??
 I immediately dove into a fresh novel, but something entirely different. The title of the book is "A Sky Unwashed" by Irene Zabytko. It is fiction but based on a true event, that of the explosion and radiation leaks at Chernobyl in 1986.
The scene is set in the village of Starylis near the disaster, where life carries on normally until the night shift did not return one fateful morning.
Marusia Peterenko is the main character, an old widow whose son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren live with her in her small house on the outskirts of the village. The author is poetic in her descriptions of life in Gorbechev's semi-rural Russia. Life is simple, crude, but peaceful and secure.
The son does not come home from his shift for several days and when he does, he is very ill. Days after the explosions, the villagers are evacuated, but by this time they are all contaminated, and on their way to radiation sickness and cancer themselves.
The ordeals at the evacuation center, the hospital, and the struggle to just get by, reveals that these people were being swept under the carpet by the communist regime. Bad publicity, you know. The story centers on Marusia's journey back to her village despite its designation as a dead zone. She makes it back and soon a few others straggle back, hoping to re-build their lives.
It is a sad story which reveals the characteristics, both good and bad, that help those who struggle, to endure and press onward. It also reveals an uncaring, cruel, expedient yet inefficient bureaucracy that cares more for selfish gain that the good of individuals.
Reading this book evokes a renewed feeling of love for my own country of Canada where things are vastly different.
4 stars  

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