Synopses & Reviews
Early on an April Saturday in 1986 in a farm village in Ukraine, widow Marusia Petrenko and her family awake to a day of traditional wedding preparations. Marusia bakes her famous wedding bread-a korovai-in the communal village oven to take to her neighbor's granddaughter's reception. Late that night, after all the dancing and drinking, Marusia's son Yurko leaves for his shift at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl.
In the morning, the air has a strange metallic taste. The cat is oddly listless. The priest doesn't show up for services. Yurko doesn't come home from work. Nobody know what's happened (and they won't for many days), but things have changed for the Petrenkos-forever.
Inspired by true events, this unusual, unexpected novel tells how-and why-Marusia defies the Soviet government's permanent evacuation of her deeply contaminated village and returns to live out her days in the only home she's ever known. Alone in the deserted town, she struggles up into the church bell tower to ring the bells twice every day just in case someone else has returned. And they have, one by one/ In the end, five intrepid old women-the village babysi-band together for survival and to confront the Soviet officials responsible for their fate. And, in the midst of desolation, a tenacious hold on life chimes forth.
Poignant and truthful and triumphant, this timeless story is about ordinary people who do more than simply "survive."
One of the joys of reading is coming across a novel in which the author's voice is so perfectly wedded to an important subject that the blending becomes art. Such a novel is Irene Zabytko's THE SKY UNWASHED, wherein the inexplicable events of the larger world are broken down into the small constituent tragedies which lie at the core and which history too often overlooks. Zabytko's voice become the voice of the forgotten in a moving and memorable book. --W.D. Wetherell author of CHEKHOV'S SISTER and THE MAN WHO LOVED LEVITTOWN
About the Author
Irene Zabytko, a bilingual, first-generation Ukrainian American, grew up in the Ukrainian Village section of Chicago. She is the recipient of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award and her work has been heard on NPR's The Sound of Writing.