Top critical review
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Noble attempt, but flawed
on September 12, 2014
There is a great story here. As a genealogist, I appreciate any effort to popularize and preserve family history.
I enjoyed the book, but found myself getting bored and confused. There were too many people with the same name going through the same life events: birth, marriage, job, having children and dying. A family tree or a genogram would have helped to keep everyone straight.
As others have said, there are sentences and even paragraphs that are difficult to understand because of poor editing and proof reading. Sometimes Karas switches from first person to third person in the middle of a paragraph for no discernible reason. It seems like he ran out of time and energy to do a good job.
Karas has an interesting approach--a blending of history, biography, autobiography and fiction. Unfortunately, the reader never knows if the events are factual or invented. In Part IV, three characters are introduced who explain the events following World War II: Myron, Stanley and Andrij. Are they real or invented? It makes a difference. If the 100 year old hermit is invented, he becomes a cheap device to explain what happened to the Russniaks. If real, we rejoice with Mr. Karas at his miraculous discovery of a long lost relative.
Some historical fiction authors (Sue Monk Kidd, for example) write an afterward that sorts out fiction from non-fiction. I appreciate that approach.
I also would have appreciated a bibliography or some indication of sources.
A good editor could have helped Mr. Karas think more clearly about his goals and methods, and develop a more imaginative and tighter approach to his material. Nevertheless, I am glad to have read this book about our ancestors.