Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Populated by Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans, Chicago's Wheat Street features largely in this collection by Zabytko, herself of Ukrainian descent. Here she chronicles the lives of characters sometimes struggling to become a part of American culture-and sometimes refusing to do so. They range from a beautiful divorcee desperately searching for a deranged, homeless woman who saved her life in a German displaced-person camp to St. Sonia, a teenaged friend of the narrator who starts to sport stigmata. In one surprising tale, the wife of a beloved Ukrainian poet who never left the USSR lands on Wheat Street for a celebration in her late husband's honor and turns out to be a red hot mama. Zabytko shows a knack for finding just the right word and paces her stories well. One is tempted to say that she shows much promise as a writer, but she has already published a wonderfully moving, award-winning novel on the Chernobyl disaster, The Sky Unwashed; these stories give the impression of having been written much earlier. Let us hope that Zabytko is now at work on another major book. Recommended for fiction collections, especially where accounts of the immigrant experience are sought.-Edward Cone, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Zabytko draws on her memories of growing up in Chicago's Ukrainian Village in the late 1960s to produce a novel that blends sorrow and humor in several interspersed stories about Luba and her unique Ukrainian community. It is a neighborhood in a time warp where old-country Ukrainians battle their horrible memories of war while they watch their children grow into young Americans. Luba is in college, and, like her peers, she is anxious to taste a little freedom, but she doesn't leave home. Instead she buys a car--a used black Valiant that will chariot her anyplace her heart desires. Ironically, the car brings Luba even closer to her tight-knit community as she finds herself ferrying the Ladies Auxiliary to their Ukrainian heritage events and is put in charge of chauffeuring a miniskirt-clad celebrity whose claim to fame is having been married to a deceased Ukrainian poet. This is an insightful look into Ukrainian culture with a delightful cast of interesting characters. --Elsa Gaztambide


Publishers Weekly
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Occasionally awkward, but often shining with quiet grace, these 10 interconnected stories by Zabytko (The Sky Unwashed) follow the childhood-to-young-adulthood trajectory of Luba Vovkovych, who lives with her Ukrainian immigrant parents in Chicago in the 1960s. In "Steve's Bar," Luba describes the local Ukrainian hangout, where the various neighborhood factions shrilly compete to be judged "most patriotic to the homeland that was lost forever" while coming to terms with their new country. In "My Black Valiant," Luba hopes to become more American herself, plotting to break free of her "DP Ukie" (Displaced Persons Ukrainian) status by changing her name to the more American Linda and buying a car that symbolizes freedom and the ability to flee her stifling culture. "The Last Boat" provides a vivid description of elderly Uncle Dutko and Auntie Olya and their past in the old country, deepening the reader's understanding of Luba's family history. The collection is sometimes brightened by startling, colorful prose: "I would've punched her stupid, soft face the way my mother punched down bread"; "The long scar across her chest glistened like braided satin." Less fresh is the collection's inevitable progression toward Luba's reconciliation of her American and Ukrainian selves. By the time we reach the last story, "John Mars, All-American," she has managed to accept her past while looking toward her future. The predictability of Zabytko's themes undermines the effectiveness of the collection, but her stories shimmer with the same hope and dreams that her characters possess in spades. Agent, Faye Bender. Author tour. (Apr. 11) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Adult/High School-Luba, who has registered as Linda at her community college in Chicago, hopes to move away from her Ukrainian immigrant community on Wheat Street and become truly American. Taken as a whole, these 10 interconnected stories, some versions of which have been published elsewhere, provide background both to Luba's desire to break away and the various ties that conspire to keep her at home. The characters are unique and well drawn, from St. Sonya, a middle-school student who develops stigmata, to Pani Ryhotska, an elderly widow who falls lustfully in love with her lodger. Luba's Americanized friends and classmates provide a contrast to the older immigrants, and there is humor and pathos in their interactions. The young woman works on relationships, male and female, family and employers, elderly and youthful, which brings her to both an appreciation of the strong community and the surprise of seeing it through an outsider's eyes. The language is captivating, and the stories flow from one to the other to create a whole that is only fully realized upon reflection. Teens will identify with "Linda," and should come to appreciate and understand the older immigrants' values and habits.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.