Heartbreak and transformation in the beauty of a Ukrainian village.
For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river.
All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother's fateful choices.
Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?
Beautiful, poetic and richly sensory, this is a tale that will haunt and lift its readers.
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For the seven years of Angela's life, her mother has seemed sad. When mother Lyuda's sadness reaches its peak, Angela uses her intense imagination and her Nightguide to transform and seek out help from her deceased grandmother who now resides in the willow across the stream. Angela doesn't know if it her absent father, the deaths of her grandparents or some other lost dream in her mother's life that causes the sadness. It seems like too much for a seven year old to handle. With the help of the spiritual world, Angela will go on a quest to help her mother find happiness, even if she is not a part of it.
A story of heartbreak and depression told through the eyes of a child who shouldn't have to experience that pain. This story took me a while to get into; the writing is lyrical and poetic with a lot of language and metaphor. It was difficult for me to find the story through the words in the beginning. The writing is beautiful, but I didn't have any context for what it meant. For example, a passage that stuck out to me:
"I am an intricate construction of fibres held together by the pull of beauty, a strange gravity suspending colours and filaments and cambia through long, sunshine moments."
This didn't make any sense till much later in the book. There were also lush description of the Ukrainian countryside, a setting that I found very interesting to explore within Angela and Lyuda's spirituality, cooking, environment and lifestyle. Once I was able to get into the story, I found Angela's character enchanting with her transformation into birds in order to escape and her conversations with her deceased grandmother in the willow tree in order to understand what is happening around her. Then I was able to realize that this is a story of sadness, grief and regret. For at least two generations, the women in Angela's family have passed down the sadness for their role in settling into lives they believed were unfulfilling. Angela takes on a unique role through magical realism in bringing her mother through depression and helping her realize that her childhood dreams can grow and change as life moves on. Overall, this is a distinctive book that deals with many difficult issues while blending contemporary fiction and magical realism. The writing style may not be best for every reader, but if you stick with it, the writing take you on a journey.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.
In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.
During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.
In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.
Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.