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VINE VOICEon October 5, 2010
Nearly three years ago, I read the first 5000 words of this story for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. Ms. Lupescu left me in a Ukranian forest full of German soldiers bent on rape with sixteen year old Nadya seeking her fortune from a clan of gypsies.

I've wondered what happened ever since. I bought "The Silence of Trees" as soon as the book was available via Amazon and even paid extra for second day delivery. I sat down with the book and a cup of tea expecting to finish in one sitting.

Normally, I'm a serial devourer of books, but "The Silence of Trees" was entirely too rich for that. I paused at 75 pages and dreamed that night of the gypsy camp. Music, counterpointed by the jangle of tambourines rang in my ears. I even saw the raven-haired dancer clad in red and gold.

I followed Nadya through fifty years of her life, learning what it was like to lose family during World War II, to live in a German work camp, and to finally immigrate to a new land where you do not speak the language and begin anew. Each step is full of the same vivid detail as the initial scenes. Nadya and her family grow and become as real as next-door neighbors.

Ms. Lupescu's prose truly is the stuff that dreams are made of. The narrative voice of her protagonist Nadya remains strong throughout nearly fifty years of her life. You can almost taste the kolachi and feel the willow switches on your backside on Palm Sunday. The best of literature transports you to places you have never been. While some of the locales of "Silence" are places you may not have wished to be, there's heart and hope in every page.

Rebecca Kyle, October 2010
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on May 11, 2011
Having not known much about the history of the Ukrainian people during the second World War, reading this story was like taking a walk in the shoes of the narrator, 70 year-old Nadya Lysenko, and reliving her heart-wrenching experiences during this turbulent and hellish time. We feel her intense and conflicting feelings towards her first love Stephan, her deep guilt and confusion over a simple decision to leave the house one night to visit a fortune-telling gypsy, and her survivor's guilt when so many around her perish, and she manages not only to survive, but thrive. Decisions she makes in an attempt to survive her ordeal come back to haunt her later during her relatively normal life in the U.S. after the war. Lupescue successfully weaves the tale from the past to the present, and the reader slowly becomes aware of all Nadya is holding inside and keeping from her children, grandchildren and even her husband. The reader feels the pressure and pain of bearing so many secrets and begins to understand why the generation who lived through this travesty may not care to discuss their past.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to learn about another culture and experience history in an up-close and personal manner. The poetic nature of the novel, the use of trees and nature as symbols, the folkloric and superstitious manner the narrator uses to describe her memories all blend together to make this a rich novel worthy of a second reading or discussion by a reading group or history class. I think the book would be a great accompaniment to a college international studies course, especially one that focuses on eastern Europe. Like the pysanky egg, the book has layers and details that all come together beautifully in the end. Some may say the ending is a little too neat, but I like the hopeful note the author concludes on.

Can you tell I really loved this book?

P.S. Having recently traveled to Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, I noticed the elderly in those countries very reserved and reticent to talk with "foreigners," unlike the youth who were very friendly and carefree. This book gave me a good understanding of why that might be as many, I am sure, had lived through communist regimes and German occupation.
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on September 29, 2011
I have never been so glad that Amazon puts forth a series of recommendations for site users. This novel came to my attention because of its appearance on that list and I am so thankful. It has been a very long time since a novel impacted my emotions with such force. I actually found myself crying at several different junctures of the protagonist's life.

As others have stated, the book is the story of Nadia Lysenko and her journey from that of a teen wanting her fortune told to a grandmother who must face her demons to be truly happy. The book weaves almost seamlessly from the past to the present and back to the past on multiple occasions. It's not at all difficult for the reader to easily make these transitions because this book is so well written.

The Silence of Trees leaves me with the feeling that this author has given us all a gift by sharing her talent. The novel succeeds on so many different levels. There is not only an amazing story, it is intertwined with folklore from the Ukrainian culture that adds to the story's enrichment and character development.

I have spent far more money on novels that I enjoyed a great deal less. This book is a prime example that the cost of a novel shouldn't be considered proportional to whether or not the content is worth the time to read. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to any woman. I'm not sure the male gender would embrace it as wholeheartedly because the story is told from the perspective of a woman but won't deny the possibility exists that I could be wrong about that. All I can say for sure is that the memory of the story will always stay with me.
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on April 27, 2012
It's certainly appreciated to finally find a novel so lovingly written about the Ukranian immigrant experience. Growing up in my Baltimore MD home, where my father was Ukranian, I couldn't wait to read The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu, and it was a pleasure to identify with so much of what she described, as I recalled my father's heritage. Of course, my father instilled in me a sensitivity to the "soul" of the Ukranian culture, which is very seriously connected to the Greek Catholic or Eastern Christian religious traditions and the Julian calendar. Although Lupescu brushes the religious traditions by describing the familiar Easter customs, there was no mention of why the Christmas scene occurs after New Year's Day, which is, of course, as it should be in the Julian calendar. Also, she could help her readers a bit by describing some of the religious icons in the Chicago house. Many icons and their artists have stories, as well. Belief in mysticism is pervasive among many Ukranians, but it is often rooted in religious folklore as well as in nature. Realistically, Lupescu captures the sense of guilt pervasive among Ukranians, even as they focus on joyful family customs adorned by a fervent connection to folk lore, passed down by word of mouth through the generations. I sincerely thank Lupescu for writing this story, because Ukranian history seems to be disappearing in the American melting pot. Hopefully, her well told story will generate more interest in segmenting out the fascinating Ukranian culture from other immigrant groups, also with worthwhile histories to be told.
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on August 29, 2013
This may well be quite a good book - but unfortunately it just did not appeal to me.

Too many ghosts, spirits, omens, signs. Too much melodrama, pathos, incredible coincidence. The first snowflakes of the season falling during a romantic outing, the late husband's photo crashing down as his widow kisses her new love, the like-named cousins killed in Vietnam and Afghanistan - and as for the distinguished and cultured older romance, Andriy Polotsky, I couldn't get the disturbing image of Andre Rieu out of my mind. Poor Andriy, the synopsis of his play sounded awful (a Nazi with a tail - really?).

I'm sure many people will enjoy this book, especially if they have a Ukrainian connection, but it does not resonate for me. It should have been an in depth character study, but the characters never came alive.
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on May 24, 2015
This is the best book I have ever read. Period. I can't recall what it was that drew me to this book, however I am forever changed because of it. This is a remarkably touching, beautifully written novel. It was so moving to me that I wept through numerous parts of the unveiling. I spontaneously touched/kissed my husband, thankful for the love we share. I sought out my children just to speak a few words to them. This is story telling at it's finest. I love History and reading about other cultures and their traditions and that is exactly what I got from this novel. It has left me feeling wistful of the many years spent with my husband, shed a different light on our many ups and downs. It has left me thankful that I nor my children grew up during a time of such hate. Thankful for my beautiful daughters and my Mother and sisters. This is is not an overtly sad story, but there are some sad parts. If you enjoy reading about "real life" I whole heartedly recommend this book. I have no idea how I will be able to successfully follow up The Silence Of Trees. No other book will ever invoke such feeling in me.
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on July 21, 2012
Good fictionalized historic account of struggles experienced by a Ukrainian woman during World War II. Somewhat reminiscent of "Giants in the Earth," though this novel is presented in first person and focuses more on the influences of history on the present, while Giants in the Earth is in Third Person and focuses on the adjustment to a new life by immigrants. Both stories, though, address traditions that families carry forward, past experiences that influences current attitudes, and some of the mythology that people internalize as real.

This book describes the life of a Ukrainian refugee, her family prior to the war experience, and the relationships she fostered and relied upon during and after the war. The author clearly has historical knowledge of Ukrainian fates following the war, and the author attempts to provide an understanding of how prejudice develops unrecognized, even in those who suffered greatly due to such prejudice. Also clearly communicated are the differences in how every generation perceives history through education versus firsthand accounts of the same historical events. For those whose critical thinking skills are sharp, they will pick up on the elements of argument that succeed or fail when trying to influence those with long-held, ingrained attitudes. For the perceptive reader, the story is a good reminder that often logic and education is trumped by memories, emotions and cultural influences.

The story also relies on the personal relationship of an older married couple, and the author depicts them in their final years of living in a relationship built upon decisions made during their youth, with those decisions being influenced by the immediate circumstances. The historical decisions are presented by the main character in a way that suggests that survivors rationalize past decisions as a coping mechanism, and as time passes, such rational perspectives may be so innured and necessary to one's sanity that the ability to allow emtions to enter the equation become a challenge, and when that rationalization is eventually recognized as perhaps being a poor guide, regrets follow. Still, the book provides witness that past decisions, whether based on emotions or on rational thought, do bring about positive results that could potentially be a source of joy should one look at the current situation rather than concentrating on regrets of the past.

The author has taken time to explore the relationships of older generations to the new genertions, of traditions blending with modern life, and of religious influences that tend to bind or part families. There are direct confrontations with family expectations, and there are hints at relationships and ideas deliberately hidden from families in order to avoide such confrontations. Through it all, the author reminds us that families can be formed with or without blood bonds, but even in challenging conditions, memories and underlying bonds provide the basis for unconditional love.

Good writing with decent historical perspective, this story is a good read for those wanting to understand the outlook of World War II participants and the strong influences that prejudice plays in individual and collective actions. With some medical terminology giving the reader pause while attempting to rectify the use of such words with the context of words spoken by an elderly immigrant without medical training, the author has provided thoughtful insight into the world of the elderly, the oppressed and the relationships of a traditional, extended family.
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on May 18, 2015
This book is beautiful and mesmerizing, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time. I love the superstitions interwoven into the story and how storytelling is so important to the Ukrainian people.

Nadya is 70 years old but still haunted by events in the Ukraine that happened during WWII when she was really a mere child. But this is also about family and the things we keep to ourselves and the things we think others don’t know and how that affects how we live our lives and the relationships we have.

I love that you think Nadya & Pavlov’s relationship is one thing and then as the story unfolds you realize it is something completely different. Ugh how can I explain how this made me feel without spoilers let’s just say with the way it starts out I didn’t expect it to progress as it did. Oh my goodness Pavlov was so not what I expected him to be from the first half of the book. The way I felt about Pavlov was like a rollercoaster ride.

Oh Nadya I just want to hug you and tell you to let things go, explain your life to your children let them really know you and allow yourself to be happy!

I loved the Ukrainian folklore and the holiday rituals in this book and it made me want to do research to incorporate some of these into my own holidays especially the parts about honoring your ancestors it was so beautiful!

The first part of this review is thoughts and feelings I had as I was listening to it. This book evoked such emotion and the narration by Xe Sands brought those emotions through beautifully, the combination of Valya’s writing and Xe’s narration is so great both story and narration are lyrical. Xe’s soft delivery lends beautifully to the written word.

If you can’t tell already I loved this book so much I will be buying the paper book for my public library and if there is ever a cd version I will buy that for the library too. I would recommend this for a book club selection too, I think it would bring about great discussions and if you are a book club that does food and the like from the books you read this one would be perfect for that.

When I was finished I wanted to hit play and start it all over again! I think this book, Nadya and the traditions are something I will think about long after I am done. I also look forward to reading more by this author.

I highly recommend this book!

5 Stars
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on June 10, 2012
I picked this up not really knowing what to expect, and was profoundly delighted by the experience of reading it. A taltented writer with such an eye for character that it's astounding. One caveat: the first three chapters seem as if they should actually be moved to about 3/4 of the way into the novel, as they are actually the climax, and I feel the reader is startled by reading them first and then discovering the rest of the novel takes place about 50 years later. It's a complex book, with a lot of weaving back and forth through time, but that said, the read is so rewarding. It's about life, loves lost, loves found, family, traditional values, fear, and war. Honestly, I think that if you pick this book up you're going to be very pleasantly surprised. It's worth it for the evocative language alone, but you'll fall for the character and keep reading because of the driving narrative and the depth of feeling. An excellent debut from a gifted writer.
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on December 11, 2013
Astoundingly well written story of a woman's journey through the hell of war and the slow, painstaking struggle back to life as it should be. Having recently read "The Book Thief" and been somewhat disappointed with that story, I can tell you that "The Silence of Trees" is full of detail, magnificent character developement and beautiful cultural details. It is not a fast paced book, but takes its time building the intricacies of a life lived with pain, shame, loss and, most of all, a deep hope for the future and an abiding love of the past. Read this with an eye to the way a tree grows, slowing forming rings large or small depending on the environment, and you will see the main character's life slowing grow, ring by ring. Glorious. She is an author to watch.
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