Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: One Woman's Life by Irena Praitis

One Woman's Life

Title: One Woman's Life by Irena Praitis
Publisher: Diversion Press
Published: December 2010
ISBN: 9781935290155
Pages: 230

    One Woman's Life is Irena Praitis' homage to her grandmother Ona Kartanas. Ona Kartanas lived through some of the most difficult times in recent European history. War, food shortages, interrogations, cramped journeys via train and ship, several moves from refugee camp to refugee camp. This book details an inspiring woman's life.

     Fatherless before birth and orphaned at a young age, Ona was left to be raised by whomever took her. Her guardians refused to allow her to go to school; they prefer she work for her keep. She sold eggs, picked berries, and sold strings of strawberries and mushrooms to pay for her school fees and her school supplies. Later, she worked her way through beauty school.  Every opportunity in life she had to succeed, she followed through.

    Raising a family during wars, occupations, and in refugee camps couldn't have been easy, but Ona sacrificed constantly to keep her family together and to aid others when possible.  Even, literally,  under the gun, Mrs Kartanas did not waver.  The strength, courage, and sheer determination required to emigrate with one's family is staggering.  That Ona was able to emigrate twice to countries where she didn't know the language or culture is mind boggling.  That her family survived and thrived is even more impressive.  She truly is an inspiring woman.

    I enjoyed  this book.   It was interesting to hear about Ona's life during the two Soviet occupations and Nazi German occupations. While intellectually I knew that the Baltic countries had been ravaged by the various wars and invasion, I had never read a biography detailing the occupations and postwar period in the Baltic countries.

  Ms. Praitis wrote the book in the style of a diary, which helped the narrative to flow smoothly rather than having a stiff voice.  We are able to feel Ona's kindness, peace, generosity, and steadfastness in every page of this book.  In my opinion, Ms. Praitis pays fitting tribute to her grandmother with her work.

Irena Praitis is the proud mother of a son, Ishaan. She is a professor of literature and creative writing at California State University - Fullerton and is the author of Touch (Finishing Line Press) and Branches (D-N Publishing). She lives in Fullerton, California.

**The book reviewed was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.                     **


  1. I love books that present a look back in time through diary entries. I'm looking forward to reading this one, too. Ona is such an intriguing character.

  2. This had to have been a hard book to write due to culture and language differences, but it sounds like it was truly a labor of love. More people should read stories like this to appreciate what they have.

  3. Hi, thanks for stopping by.

    Nancy -- Ona is really inspiring. Just the sheer amount of strength she has possessed over the years.

    Linda -- I interviewed Irena, the author, and she interviewed her grandmother with her mom translating.

  4. This is a different type of book than I normally read, but I'm spreading my wings. This was an awsome review and I can't wait to read it.

  5. Thanks, it was a really great book.