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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
If you like a book that throws you into a deep hole and stirs you around in the dark a bit before it finally lifts you into the light, A Sun Drenched Elsewhere: Zoya Septet Book 4 by Murray Pura is for you. On one level, it’s a coming-of-age story on steroids. Yura Andrushko is a tall, skinny half-Ukrainian teenager growing up in a brutally dysfunctional family in Chicago. He experiences anger, loneliness, friendship, romance, disappointment, death, loss, guilt, and love on his way to young adulthood. On another level, it’s about the impact of surviving violence, whether in World War II or the recent Ukrainian revolution, on the human spirit. Above all, it’s about finding healing on many levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
In A Sun Drenched Elsewhere, Pura gives us a masterfully-written study of complex characters and gut-wrenching feeling. Told in the first person, Yura’s and his family’s stories leap from the pages in flowing, highly descriptive, emotionally evocative narration and dialog which engage the reader at the deepest level. I couldn’t put the book down. The relationship between Yura and his aunt’s husband, Uncle Nazar, is wonderfully drawn so that the reader’s heart breaks with Yura’s when he thinks he learns a terrible secret that comes between them. Yura’s romance with Zoryana, a tall, blonde Viking-like Slavic/Goth “earth-mother” blend, becomes a thread which weaves a spiritual-like heretofore missing cultural pillar into Yura’s soul and inspires him to stand up against real bullets for Ukrainian freedom when logic might tell him to hightail it back to America. If you get most of the way through this book and feel like the darkness is closing in and all hope is lost, just hang in there. Without giving away the ending, let me just say that you won’t regret waiting for it. It brought tears to my eyes. An utterly engaging read. Highly recommended.