While looking for additional novels about immigrant experiences, I found The Last Chicken in America: A Novel in Stories by Ellen Litman, which focuses on Russian immigrants and their families in Pittsburgh. The book is made up of several short stories which are intertwined by the recurring characters, including direct immigrants and their children, and the experiences they have in coming to and living in the US.
The short story collection as novel concept was interesting, and I kind of liked getting to switch from one main character to another, or to a group of characters. However, it all felt a bit repetitive after awhile, and I also started to have a hard time telling some of the characters apart, especially because sometimes references would be made to an unnamed person, who might or might not have been someone in a previous story.
I don’t remember how I’d first heard about A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka, but I hadn’t looked into it at the time. I found it at the library, after looking for books about people from Eastern Europe or Russia, I think, and it turned out to be a decent read.
The book focuses on two somewhat estranged sisters living in England, which is where their parents emigrated to from the Ukraine before the younger one was born. They end up working together to try and prevent their widowed father from marrying a Ukrainian woman much younger than him, for fear that she’s trying to take advantage of him to get a British passport.
Interspersed with the main story are segments from a book their father is writing, with the same title as the novel itself. The passages are sometimes connected to the story, though I got a little tired of them after a bit.
All in all, the story was interesting, especially as we see how the family conflict changes the sisters’ relationship and their view of other people. A little slow in parts, but, still, an interesting book.