THE SILENCE OF TREES

Valya Dudycz Lupescu

In Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, Nadya Lysenko has built her life on a

foundation of secrets. When she was sixteen, Nadya snuck out of her

house in Western Ukraine to meet a fortuneteller in the woods. She never

expected it to be the last time she would see her family.

Decades later, Nadya continues to be haunted by the death of her parents

and sisters. The myths and magic of her childhood are still a part of

her reality: dreams unite friends across time and space, house spirits

misplace keys and glasses,

more …

In Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, Nadya Lysenko has built her life on a

foundation of secrets. When she was sixteen, Nadya snuck out of her

house in Western Ukraine to meet a fortuneteller in the woods. She never

expected it to be the last time she would see her family.

Decades later, Nadya continues to be haunted by the death of her parents

and sisters. The myths and magic of her childhood are still a part of

her reality: dreams unite friends across time and space, house spirits

misplace keys and glasses, and a fortuneteller’s cards predict the

future. Nadya’s beloved dead insist on being heard through

dreams and whispers in the night. They want the truth to come out. Nadya

needs to face her past and confront the secrets she buried. Too

often the women of history have been silenced, but their stories have

power-to reveal, to teach, and to transform. This is one such story.

less …
  • Wolfsword Press
  • Hardcover
  • October 2010
  • 314 Pages
  • 9780982126127

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About Valya Dudycz Lupescu

Valya Dudycz Lupescu is a writer and the founding editor of Conclave: A

Journal of Character. Born and raised in Chicago, she received her

degree in English at DePaul University and earned her MFA in Writing as

part of the inaugural class at the School of the Art Institute of

Chicago (where she began working on The Silence of Trees). Her novel,

The Silence of Trees, was selected as a Semifinalist in the 2008 Amazon

Breakthrough Novel Award. She occasionally teaches workshops around

Chicago and online, and helps to facilitate a monthly gathering of

writers and artists. For the last seven years, she and her husband,

along with their three children, have been dividing their time between

the United States and Germany. They currently reside in Chicago. Visit

her website at: www.vdlupescu.com

Praise

“In The Silence of Trees, Nadya, the astonishing matriarch, war survivor, and narrator, weaves a remarkable life centered on fate, love, luck and choice while honoring the ghosts of her past. Her voice is an important and unforgettable addition to the post-war immigrant experience in this highly impressive and exquisite debut by novelist Valya Dudycz Lupescu.”Irene Zabytko, author of The Sky Unwashed and When Luba Leaves Home

“Valya Dudycz Lupescu presents us an impressive novel debut with The Silence of Trees, in which she conjures a captivating story of the heroine, Nadya, across more than fifty years of secrets, truths, tales told and untold, quiet sacrifices, as well as memories of a difficult personal history she left behind in Central Europe…Like an enchanting tapestry of Ukrainian magic and folkloric images, this is a thoughtful and beautiful work.”Fiona Sze-Lorrain, author of Water the Moon

Discussion Questions

Stories are an integral part of The Silence of Trees. What are some of the stories that Nadya recounts and what is their importance to the larger story?

Review the vorozhka’s prediction? Did it come true? Discuss the role and importance of dreams, signs, and omens in the book.

What are the important trees in the book? Why do you think the author chose to title her book, The Silence of Trees?

Discuss the dynamics of each of Nadya’s romantic relationships. How are they similar and different?

Female relationships figure prominently in The Silence of Trees. Discuss the dynamics of Nadya’s relationship with her Baba Hanusia, Mama Paraska, Ana, Katya, and Lesya.

In The Silence of Trees, we watch Nadya grow from adolescence to old age. Discuss how she changes and matures. What lessons does she learn as a young woman and as an older woman.

If you had to pick one word to describe her life from the time she left home until she receives the first empty envelope, what word would you choose? How does Nadya’s life change after she receives the envelope?

How might Nadya’s life have been different if she had fled alone without Stephan after visiting the vorozhka? What if she had stayed in the village?

Is it important that Nadya is a peasant and cleaning lady, not a teacher or professional woman? How does her status shape her life and experience of the world? With what result?

Is the story told in chronological order? Why do you think the author chose to write it in this way?

What does Nadya care most deeply about in her life? How does this shape her character and world view?

What is the significance of the various spirits who appear to Nadya in the story?

What is the story’s central conflict? Is it between characters, a character and society, a character and nature? Is it internal—an emotional struggle within the character? Does the conflict create tension, even suspense, to hold your interest?

Can you identify any symbols in the book—people, actions or objects that stand for something greater than themselves?

Which character do you most identify with and why?

Discuss the significance of Nadya’s acts of letting go of the past. How might you have acted differently?

Each of the three sections begins with an epigraph. Discuss their significance.

Who did you think sent the first letter? Were you surprised to find out that it was from Nadya’s sister? What other letters are important in the story?

When they are talking on the telephone, Halya tells Nadya that Stephan told her that “he never forgot the smell of the raspberries.” What do you think he meant?

If you were going to have another character from The Silence of Trees tell us the story, whom would you choose? How might the story be different?