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Reviewed by Michelle Stanley for Readers' Favorite
Old Country Surprises is a reflective young adult adventure by Ken Saik. Mike Bennek accepts his ailing grandfather’s request to travel to Ukraine to research his origins. Mike, his siblings, and friends embark on this unique journey and become captivated by the old-world charms of a country his grandfather spoke about so fondly. As Mike and his group tour the area searching for information about his grandfather’s background, they come to respect and appreciate the efforts of proud Ukrainians who believe in preserving and practicing traditions and customs, their amazing artistic talents, and foods, such as perogies and borscht. Natasha, their innkeeper provides valuable information about the Bennek family during her research. Mike enjoys the flirtatious moments he has with her. Some people are wary of them, which is due to their experiences and conditions from the ravages of past wars.
Old Country Surprises indeed! I had to read this book when I saw the blurb. Ken Saik’s in-depth description of Ukraine during the past versus the present is touching. The historical information about the country is interesting. It is difficult to imagine how this beautiful country can be destroyed and left in ruins by war. One of the many things that fascinated me was the uniquely painted eggs that are significant in meaning. The characters are well defined in a setting and plot that has nostalgia, sadness, light romance, and intrigue. Each character reacted differently to the strange culture and social issues. Mike’s grandfather’s stories about the old country became more meaningful while touring Ukraine. The segment at the back of the book called “A Reader’s Questions for Contemplation" is also thought-provoking. I highly recommend this wonderful novel by Ken Saik.