Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone

Title: Above Us Only Sky
Author: Michele Young-Stone
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: March 3, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "On March 29, 1973, Prudence Eleanor Vilkas was born with a pair of wings molded to her back. Considered a birth defect, her wings were surgically removed, leaving only the ghost of them behind.

At fifteen years old, confused and unmoored, Prudence meets her long-estranged Lithuanian grandfather and discovers a miraculous lineage beating and pulsing with past Lithuanian bird-women, storytellers with wings dragging the dirt, survivors perched on radio towers, lovers lit up like fireworks, and heroes disguised as everyday men and women. Prudence sets forth on a quest to discover her ancestors, to grapple with wings that only one other person can see, and ultimately, to find out where she belongs.

Above Us Only Sky spans the 1863 January Uprising against Russian Tsarist rule in Eastern Europe to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Lithuania gaining its independence in 1991. It is a story of mutual understanding between the old and young; it is a love story; a story of survival, and most importantly a story about where we belong in the world. This “is a raw, beautiful, unforgettable book” (Lydia Netzer, bestselling author of Shine, Shine, Shine).

My Two Cents:

When Prudence is born, she is born with a pair of wings on her back. Her father is relatively okay with this; however, her mother believes her wings to be a birth defect and has them surgically removed. Come to find out, Prudence is actually descended from it a family who has several women who were born with wings. And this is something to be celebrated! Split between 1863 and the late 1980s and early 1990s, this book has a great deal of magical realism and focuses on both Prudence and the winged women in her family.

I think I've expressed to you all my love of magical realism several times. It's one of my favorite elements of a book, especially when the magic feels as real as it does here. When it's mixed with historical fiction like it is in this book, it's definitely something special.

The historical detail in the book is great as well. I loved reading about Prudence's family and how her family coped with the 1863 Russian occupation of Lithuania. This is a time period and an event that I didn't know much about at all and I like the way got the author was able to weave the historical events and with the magical. The story also covers Prudence finding out the secret of her family through her estranged grandfather, who her mother has kept away from her. Her grandfather tells her about the secrets of her family and makes Prudence feel like there might be somewhere where she actually belongs.

This story was a little bit on the short side for my liking and I do wish that the author had gone into a little bit more detail about Prudence and what she was thinking about everything that her grandfather was telling her. I would have liked to get a little bit closer to her in that regard. There is a sort of love story in the book between Prudence and a neighborhood boy who has magic of his own that I would have liked more detail about.

Overall, this is a wholly inventive story and will be perfect for those who like their historical fiction with a heavy dose of magical realism. This is a story about both the ties and secrets that bind families through generations.


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