I have absolutely no idea whatsoever what attracted me to this book. I recall seeing the book by the same author with the bizarre title about Tractors in Ukrainian and I being so perturbed by the peculiarness of the title that I never bothered to give the book a second glance. I had never read any review about this book nor had I read anything about Lewycka as an author. I had nothing to guide me but the apparent ‘fun’ that this author seeks as implied by those tractors.
So, imagine my surprise and sheer delight when I discovered that this book was filled with the most magnificent characters in a traditional sense. Here were people who seemed real. People with issues, people who struggled with themselves and with the world without needing psychotherapy. People who seemed somehow whole, despite their many holes.
I was gripped from the moment I first encountered Georgie Sinclair vigorously throwing her husband’s precious LPs into the dumpster. I was even more taken by the quirky Mrs Shapiro, a neighbour, who we meet ravaging through the dumpster and delighting over her find. The conflicting values between these two women make them a perfect combination to force readers to reconsider their own connections with people, what manufactures those connections and how they are cemented.
For some very strange reason, Georgie and Mrs Shapiro are bonded, quite like glue in fact. Georgie comes to Mrs Shapiro’s aid in many ways throughout the book, saving her from nursing homes and other nightmares. However, at the same time Mrs Shapiro gives Georgie back the passion that she has lost somewhere along the road that is her life. I loved the way that these two bantered and related, the way they resided both separately and within each other, alongside each other, connected but clearly apart.
Even more than the characters, I loved the plot. The twists and crazy turns were fabulous. There were so many highlights that I can’t name them all and doing so would only spoil the story for those who might choose to read it. Needless to say, this book spoke to me on so many levels and really reignited a joy for reading that is so often lost beneath the mire of more intense and overtly challenging texts.
In this book I read satire and endearment, love and passion, politics and sociology. I read health care and economics, I read deceit and resolve. I read families and loneliness, connections and the wonderful unfolding of furls of tangents which made the characters so multi-dimensional. Watch out for the action with Georgie’s son to understand some of my meaning here!
So, I eat my words. Tractors in Ukrainian sounds, in hindsight, like a magnificent idea… along with Two Caravans and anything else this marvellous author cares to pen.