Title: A petal in the wind
Author: Miko Johnston
Review: I loved the opening chapter to this novel, being introduced to a loving, warm family dynamic but also being introduced to some darker dangers as well. I also really liked the fact this book is set in Russia as I haven’t read many novels based in this countrty. For an novel this one is rather short at just over 200 pages long making it a fairly quick read.
I loved Luska as a character as she is always trying to help her mother because her father can’t because of his disability. But she is always worrying about adult things like Cossacks and this turns out to be a very real fear despite their infrequent raids on the shtetls where they live.
Luska finds her way to the city with the assitance of her parents to find a new home after the Cossacks raid, which she finds with a Rabbi, his wife and their children. I liked how relgiion is a key theme in this novel but not used to the point where the book becomes unbearable and self-rightous – it is just enough to identify certain points, places or names in the novel but never enough to put you off.
After being taken in Luska has a confornation with the Rabbi’s son; Saul and she doesn’t quite understand the situation she is in now being an orphan and miles away from the place she once called home. She is now torn between her own conflicts and those of the household in which she stays.
Luska is beginning to learn the way of “civilised” society and is finding the more she tries to fit in the more she isloates herself, as she keeps trying to drag her old life with her parents into her new one in the city. I feel very sorry for Luska and how isolate she feels, and how she wants to grieve for her family but she doesn’t know how and nobody is willing it teach her.
I loved the sad writing style told primarily from Luska viewpoint. It’s strange looking and death, destruction and poverty through the eyes of a child who doesn’t understand the meaning of these emotions nor what to do with them. The book is a very quick read but the emotional trauma and hurt takes longer to process than the words themselves.
Saul, Esther and Luska are starting to bond and become good friends. Luska is being shown by Anya how to clean the house properly and do chores like she used to do at home. She is also beginning to feel that home with the Rabbi and his family, we sees this most clearly when she rearranges the furniture in the room she has been staying.
Coming into the second half of the novel, everything seems too cozy and I have a feeling something bad is going to happen to Luska I am just not sure of what – whether she will be sent away from the Rabbi or something else. Luska makes the most unlikely of friendships in all sorts of places and finally finds the courage to speak up and voice her feelings to those around her. The courage to confront her past and future all at once. She is an extraordinary child and an amazingly well-written character.
I loved the ending of this book and how Luska made her physically, mental and emotional transformation into Lala heading to Bohemia with her new family. And even though she never forgets her real family she has them safely tucked away in her heart. Mike Johnston has planned to write a sequel to this book and I really hope I get the chance to review it when the time comes.
This book was sent to me by Champlain Avenue Books for review
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