BROVKO’S AMAZING JOURNEY
Coteau Books, 2013. 159 p. ISBN 1-55050-555-9
ANDREI AND THE SNOW WALKER
Coteau Books, 2002. 195 p. ISBN 1-55050-213-1
Reviewed by Myra Junyk
On this edition of Knyzhka Corner, we look at two books by Saskatchewan author Larry Warwaruk.
Brovko’s Amazing Journey traces the incredible journey of a sheep dog named Brovko from his home in Ukraine all the way to Saskatchewan. In this companion volume to Andrei and the Snow Walker, Warwaruk once again explores the life of Ukrainian-Canadian pioneers at the beginning of the 20th century. This time, he tells his story from the perspective of a dog!
In Andrei and the Snow Walker (2002), Warwaruk’s hero is 12-year old Andrei Bayda. As the novel begins: “It is the first day of April, 1900, and Andrei’s family is leaving their home in the Ukrainian village of Zabokruky in Horodenka province.” (p. 1) Before leaving, Dido Danylo receives a mysterious gift from the holy man Skomar. It is a Scythian cup … a relic of the people of ancient Ukraine, and its magic gives Andrei visions.
The family’s journey takes them to a homestead near Batoche, Saskatchewan. Andrei works hard to build a new life, and even takes on a job at the neighbouring farm owned by Mr. Kuzyk. He dreams of one day owning Kuzyk’s beautiful colt Vityr.
Andrei befriends Chi Pete, a young Métis, who tells him about the Snow Walker, a mysterious local man living alone in the woods. When Andrei is lost in a terrible blizzard with Vityr, he must rely on his own resources to survive. What role will the mysterious cup play? Will the Snow Walker help him? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
In Brovko’s Amazing Journey, Warwaruk’s hero is Brovko, Andrei’s dog left behind in Ukraine. After the Bayda family leaves, Brovko dreams of one day re-uniting with his master Andrei. He is content as long as Tekla cares for him, but when she decides to travel to Canada as well, Brovko hatches a plan to follow – all the way to Canada. With the help of a magic collar given to him by the village holy man, Brovko can now “see the unseen” (p. 27) so that he can return the golden cup to its rightful place in Ukraine.
In a truly amazing narrative, Warwaruk describes Brovko’s travels: on a train to Hamburg, as the guide dog of a kobzar, on a ship across the ocean, on a train across Canada to Winnipeg, and finally on a treacherous journey through the Canadian wilderness. Brovko’s heroic determination makes this an unforgettable tale!
Despite being separated by an 11 year publication gap, Warwaruk’s two novels provide a wonderful window into the life of Ukrainian pioneers in Saskatchewan. Andrei and the Snow Walker gives readers the perspective of a young man facing the challenges of a new life far away from his tiny Ukrainian village. Andrei faces the isolation and physical challenges of a Canadian homestead as he learns new skills and adapts to a new culture. His friendship with Chi Pete, a young Métis, teaches him a great deal about his new environment and Canadian history. Andrei’s mystical connection to his grandfather’s cup also leads him to a unique association with the Snow Walker.
Even though Brovko’s Amazing Journey revisits Andrei’s story, this novel can definitely stand on its own. Told from the perspective of a dog, readers will be fascinated by how resourceful and intelligent Brovko is. Warwaruk has captured the canine spirit in a very believable and interesting way.
Warwaruk definitely grew as a writer during the 11 years between these two volumes. Brovko’s Amazing Journey is shorter but very well written. It will definitely appeal to young readers. Andrei and the Snow Walker was an interesting story with many different threads – immigration, Ukrainian history, life in a multi-generational family, homesteading, Aboriginal culture and history, and Scythian mysticism.
While Brovko’s Amazing Journey touches on all these issues, the novel is much more concise. The story is reminiscent of Sheila Burnford’s iconic novel The Incredible Journey.
Born in Regina, Larry Warwaruk was a teacher and principal in central Saskatchewan for many years. He has been very active in community theatre, and was the lead editor of the popular Saskatchewan literature anthology Sundog Highway. His previous books have included The Ukrainian Wedding, Bone Coulee and The Rope of Time. Andrei and the Snow Walker was a finalist for the 2006 Kobzar Literary Award.
Both books available at Chapters and Amazon. Brovko’s Amazing Journey is available in both print and e-book versions.