Sunflowers Beneath the Snow
Teri M. Brown
Atmosphere Press (2022)
Reviewed by Terri Stepek for Reader Views (11/2022)
In “Sunflowers Beneath the Snow,” an epic story beautifully and frankly told, author Teri M. Brown has created a rare read full of struggle, endurance, and redemption. Reminiscent of Mark T. Sullivan’s “The Last Green Valley,” this novel tells the story of a family living in Ukraine during Soviet rule and then Ukrainian independence. Spanning three generations and at least as many rulers, the family of Lyaksandro Hadeon Rosomakha lived a mostly simple life in these treacherous times.
Lyaksandro left his wife Ivanna and their daughter Yevtsye one night without saying a word. He never returned, leaving his family devastated emotionally, financially, and politically. Spanning the years from 1973 through 2021, this tale focuses on life for Ivanna and Yevtsye, then additionally, Yevtsye’s husband (Danye) and daughter (Ionna).
As a Westerner who remembers the USSR under Soviet rule, the divided nation of Germany, the Cold War, and the countries known as The Soviet Bloc which included Ukraine, this story not only held my attention but sent me back to times mostly now forgotten. The media, politicians, authors, and Hollywood all told us that it was a difficult time to live in Eastern Europe. This novel doesn’t just tell us how difficult it was, but rather immerses us in the brutality, the desperation, and the absolute fear of those uncertain times.
Written with an unflinching eye for detail, “Sunflowers Beneath the Snow” is many things. It reminds the reader of times gone by with an eerie foreshadowing of current events. It portrays the depth and determination of a people who chose to remain steadfast and stand on their own. But perhaps it best reminds us of the indomitable spirit of humans facing extreme conditions, and how they choose to rise above circumstances that seem insurmountable. This story illustrates strength, character, hope, and repentance in startling and vivid ways.
Fans of historic fiction as well as general fiction driven by intriguing characters will find this an excellent read. It is well-written and gutsy, yet courageous and captivating. Be sure to read the short author’s note found at the end of the book.