A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina LewyckaNadia and her sister Vera have not spoken since their mother’s funeral -however the news that their 84 year old father intends to marry a 36 year old Ukrainian refugee forces them into partnership. They must protect their father (and their mother’s life savings) from the clutches of this busty, blonde interloper. Once the marriage takes place, Valentia, her teenage son and her new British Visa, move in with Nicholai and mayhem ensues. At first Nicholai can refuse her nothing, even paying for breast implants to enhance her already considerable charms. But as Valentia begins to realize that Nicholai does not have the disposable income to support the wealthy western lifestyle she expects, she quickly turns on her new husband and begins to physically and mentally abuse him. Nadia and her sister are alternately told to mind their own business, and then phoned in the night and begged for help. As the sisters work together, they come to terms with their estrangement along with some unspoken family history.

What the Armchair Critics Thought:
While largely described as a comedy, this is a book that raises interesting issues about the care of elderly parents, the immigrant experience and conflict between personal ideals and difficult realities. We did find the book comical at times, especially the vitriolic dialogue between Nicholai and Valentia and the saga of the “crap car”. Nicholai’s ‘Toshiba apples’ and the excerpt from his book about the history of tractors also provide some comic relief. The book is well written and captures the Ukranian pigeon English nicely. Recommended.


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