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Reviewed by Keith Mbuya for Readers' Favorite
Katarina Rempel’s dream was to be a schoolteacher when she was old enough and travel the world. Just like other groups in Europe and possibly the rest of the world, the Mennonite women were supposed to only worry about household chores and their husbands. Katarina and her family were living in Russia in the early twentieth century. Perhaps Katarina was too ambitious about her future, especially for an ordinary teenage Mennonite girl, now that there were speculations about an imminent outbreak of war in Russia and Germany. With dangerous Russian gangs on the loose, political pressure in the country, and a very volatile mass of Russian countrymen, is the war likely to happen? If it does, will the Mennonites survive? Having found his mother’s diary in the mid-twentieth century (the “post-war Germany” era), Peter, Katarina’s son, narrates his mother’s story from accounts in her diary, in MJ Krause-Chivers’ Russian Mennonite Chronicles (Katarina’s Dark Shadow).
Russian Mennonite Chronicles is an amazing dystopian-themed novel. The author forges a demandingly engaging storyline that exposes the agony and suffering the Mennonites went through during the Russian Civil War. The story is given a perfect setting in the early twentieth century. This is seen in the choice of words and ideas which embrace the use of technology and vocabulary from that era. The vivid depictions also impressively bring out the story’s setting. What I love most is how the author beautifully incorporates the culture and beliefs of the Mennonites in the narration, highlighting their uniqueness from Russians and other Europeans. Needless to say, I did learn a lot from Russian Mennonite Chronicles (Katarina’s Dark Shadow). The author boldly unwraps the character traits of the characters. There is a generally somber tone accompanying the narration, subject to the agony expressed in MJ Krause-Chivers’ words. This coupled with the suspense and tension in the book took me on an emotional roller coaster. I’m on my way to getting the next installment in MJ Krause-Chivers’ Russian Mennonite Chronicles. I loved this book.