Sunflowers Beneath the Snow by Teri M. Brown

Published January 5, 2022

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Like sunflower seeds that rest dormant under winter snow, Teri M. Brown’s Sunflowers Beneath the Snow reveals the underlying strength of three generations of women living in Ukraine between 1973-2021. Ivanna, a grandmother, Yevtsye, her daughter, and Ionna, the granddaughter share their stories of survival and accomplishments despite political upheaval, economic hardships, and social and religious disparities.

In the opening pages Ivanna’s husband, Lyaksandro, is abducted for his efforts to squash Communism and restore the traditions of Ukraine his father instilled in him as a youth. Teri Brown weaves the history of the USSR and the customs and culture of Ukraine with the personal beliefs of Ivanna as she stays true to the Party. Readers are treated to descriptions of Christmas celebrations of the past as hunger pangs continue for parents and children as they forage for food and burn furniture to stay alive.  

Themes of forgetting and forgiveness fill the emotional dialogue and personal religious conflicts between Ivanna and her daughter, Yevtsye, as they navigate tumultuous decades of personal separation, political unrest, and Ukraine’s declaration of independence. Through Ionna’s experiences truths are exposed and a timeline of historical developments helps the reader internalize the reality behind personal and political struggles.

Based on true events, the individual decisions and reactions to situations create “astonishing solutions more powerful than fiction.” In the fall of 2022 as the media reports daily on military progress in Ukraine, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow is an extremely emotional, currently relevant educational novel presented through the lens of one family and their extraordinary sacrifices over a lifetime.  Highly recommended.

Sunflowers are easy to find in Ukraine. The sunflower seeds brought by early explorers from America, provide food, oil, medicine, and dyes. Fields of flowers, carved into furniture or embroidered on clothing; the sunflower is the national symbol of Ukraine.

Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M. Brown now calls the North Carolina coast home. In 2020, she and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. Teri’s debut novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, is a historical fiction set in Ukraine. Learn more at www.terimbrown.com.

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