Monday, April 28, 2008

Publisher's choice

My boss, Tom Northrop, publisher of the Observer-Reporter, lent me his copy of Marina Lewycka's "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian," first published three years ago. He said I'd enjoy its quirky humor.

The author of this first novel was born to Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp in Germany shorty after World War II but grew up in England, just like her narrator. This is a funny book that revolves around the narrator's elderly widowed father and the woman with whom he falls in love, a 36-year-old Ukrainian divorcee who "exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade."

As funny as it is, the book is woven with melancholy threads that run through several generations. Horrible things happened back in Ukraine before and during the war - things that can never be forgotten.

This is a touching and insightful examination of immigrants and their behavior, and although the author strives for laughs, she does it without condescending.

Best of all, this is a novel filled with three-dimensional characters - character with real depth who are never quite what they at first seem.

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