Thursday, April 14, 2022

Review: I Will Die in a Foreign Land

I Will Die in a Foreign Land I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm one of many people who felt drawn to reading more about Ukraine. This novel was already on my radar so I purchased it from Two Dollar Radio.

Publisher summary excerpt:
"[This novel] follows four individuals over the course of a volatile Ukrainian winter, as their lives are forever changed by the Euromaidan protests. Katya is a Ukrainian-American doctor stationed at a makeshift medical clinic in St. Michael’s Monastery; Misha is an engineer originally from Pripyat, who has lived in Kyiv since his wife’s death; Slava is a fiery young activist whose past hardships steel her determination in the face of persecution; and Aleksandr Ivanovich, a former KGB agent, climbs atop a burned-out police bus at Independence Square and plays the piano."

Set in 2013-14 but also rooted in the complexities of the past (from the mythical Rus to Cossacks to Chernobyl), alternating viewpoints include the four characters plus news articles, cassette recordings, songs, and more. It's very readable and brings the reader into the intimacy of the recent past for Ukraine. Honestly I was trying to read non-fiction about Stalin's war on Ukraine and was drawn back into fiction instead.

The author is not Ukrainian but is donating all proceeds of the book to relief orgs benefitting Ukrainian people at the time of this review.

One friend said they couldn't tell if I liked the book and my feelings are mixed - it has many techniques I like, the rotating perspectives, the various format types, the short chapters, the tidbits that send me off on research projects, for instance listening to the bells of St. Michaels in 2013 on YouTube (only the second time they were played as part of a conflict, the previous time was with the Mongols!) But it feels weird to say I liked a novel about a previous conflict when the country it's about it in such turmoil now with people dead in the street. It even took me a while to read because I struggled to return to a setting that doesn't even exist as it's described because of the Russian invasion, and the book is set only 8 years in the past. I can be quite the emotional reader sometimes.

This book has come up a few times on the Reading Envy podcast this year, and will also be mentioned on episode 245.

The author is not from Ukraine but is a bit of a subject matter expert, and also published this list of suggested books to read to learn more.

View all my reviews

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