Title: Above Us Only Sky
Author: Michele Young-Stone
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Fantasy. Magical Realism, Adult, Historical, Literary Fiction, Supernatural
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: March 3, 2015
Page Amount: 256 pages
Blurb From Goodreads: 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.
Why Read: As per usual, I found this book through Book Riot. What made me choose this book in particular was the mention of Lithuania. On both my mother’s and my father’s side, roots reach back to this Baltic country that no one knows a thing about. Add in a mention of children born with wings and a touch of Soviet nostalgia, and there was almost no chance that I wouldn’t read it.
Review: This book starts with a death: the death of the Old Man. From there, everything circles around this event, and how the people in the story came to be there – where did his wife come from, how have his children explored America, what happened to his grandchild, what happens now? Structurally, I was wary – but happily, my worries were quickly assuaged away by the (somehow) smooth transitions between the past and present parts of this family.
Part of what I felt made this book so relatable was the sense of loss that permeates throughout every time period. Whether the subject is Nazi Germany, Soviet Germany or current-day loss of a marriage or of a best friend, this book has some kind of second sense for depicting loss. Disclaimer: I found myself quietly sobbing as it finished, because the book has a sense of inevitability. As it neared to the end, each story began to wrap up, and far from being pleased, it felt as though someone was ripping out my heart.
The cast of characters is richly diverse, and with each new introduction, I added yet another attachment to another person, whose story is so inexorably entwined with Prudence, the main character. Prudence’s story, merged to a larger level, the Lithuanian story is one that is not told often, and each character (while not necessarily Lithuanian) adds one more bit to the pool of knowledge as the country is taken over by larger powers who dismiss the smaller characters who fear war, and even those who long for death.
While not a huge part of the story itself, the added element of lost physical wings adds another dimension to the story about growing into yourself, regardless of your deformities. Perhaps it was a smaller aspect rather than the main plot, but I personally felt Prudence’s development of mourning towards a place of acceptance was extremely touching. Verdict: Read.
Rating: 5/5 Stars