Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Intersection of Secrets, Ukrainian Folklore, and a Treadmill

Oh, hello. It's been awful quiet around here. I blame the gym: I got on a rare fitness kick, which ate into my free (blogging) time, and I didn't want to scare it away. (Yet here I am, blogging. That elliptical won't sweat on itself, Mel!)

I'll tell you the best thing about gym time: audiobooks. Although the people around me might wonder why I'm constantly breaking into sudden laughter or tears as I'm working out, I really love listening to an engrossing story to while away my cardio time. Only problem is when I am overtaken by a sob and literally slip off the dang treadmill, like I did when I listened to Xe Sands' narration of Valya Dudycz Lupescu's The Silence of Trees.

The nice people at Audiobook Jukebox provided this title courtesy of the nice people at Iambik Audiobooks (I had issues, they all helped, I am grateful.) It ran a smidgen under 10 hours, and carried me to a world I'd never imagined and people I long to sit with over several long meals.

The heart of the story is Nadya, a Ukrainian who lost her family as a teen during WWII, and has been unable to tell her children and grandchildren the truths about her life before the war. When she left Ukraine, she left knowing that she would have died alongside her parents and sisters if she hadn't snuck out of the house one night to consult a gypsy fortuneteller. And although she lost everyone she loved, she never lost her inclination towards magic, folklore, and tradition, all of which stayed with her as she survived the war years in a German work camp, then moved with her new young family to Chicago. That family grows, and she finds a new Ukrainian community in her new city, but can't ever bear to think about the family and community she'll never see again. Although Nadya is engaged with the 'now,' her daughter and granddaughter in particular see that she uses it to hide from the 'then,' and a series of small but devastating moments begin to crack Nadya's shell for them. The cracks widen, the events get wider (I fall off the treadmill), and finally Nadya's truths begin to emerge. It's devastatingly beautiful. Lupescu puts together gorgeous sentences and scenes, bringing all of Nadya's places - Ukrainian farmhouse and woods, German camp, American ship - to vivid life.

Sands' narration is gorgeous. She imbued a subtle touch of Ukraine into her voice, which always felt true to Nadya's emotions. Poor Nadya was often telling of dread, angst, trepidation, or anguish, in addition to her vast love, pride, and thoughtfulness, and each moment was true without being maudlin. I did know going into this that the narrator had loved the book she was narrating, but it would have been obvious regardless (you should follow @XeSands on twitter if you love words as I do - she's always finding gorgeous language to share.)

My son just noticed I'm still at home blogging instead of at the gym, so my time here appears to be over. I hope to tell you about a couple more audiobooks this week, since June is, as I'm sure you know, Audiobook Month. So download something and start listening (and doing cardio. I'm a huge fan of cardio, I've decided, as long as I can avoid being anywhere near Houston's insane outdoor temps.)

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