The Shadow of Silver Birch

Terez Peipins
Black Rose Writing, 2015

The author writes: “Latvia is a country of women. The old gods and goddesses had run the world in a much different way before Christianity. The daughters of the sun always played an important role as did fate in that old world. Even the sun was a female deity.” The Birch tree is often regarded as a goddess tree, a symbol of renewal and protection—a tree of inception and new beginnings.


Terez Peipins paints a picture of a silver birch that casts a sweeping storied shadow around the life of one Latvian man as the generations before and after him scatter in the wake of Russian-occupied Riga. This work of literary fiction is inspired by the memory of the author’s mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles in a saga that spans the decades leading up to WWII and through the later years of that century after the Berlin Wall was removed.

Told in the third person point-of-view, the reader is delivered a complete exploration of the human drama of birth, joy, suffering, and death that shape individual lives. A multitude of characters come alive with the details of daily life and disruptive events. At a time when “the reach of Stalin’s government was felt everywhere,” Juris and Mara had lived a quiet life raising daughters, Olga and Laura, until changes are imposed upon them. The fall of their hometown disperses Juris to a camp in Sweden. Later on, he lands in a Siberian prison. The girls end up in Spain and Canada. The unfolding story follows them all through chapters of happenings in their various locations. The heritage of country, culture and language are felt as each forms new bonds through place, work, marriage, parenthood, illness, and aging—a tangle of complex relationships, love, and struggle.

This slice of Eastern European history is told with humanity and heart through the richness of Latvian experience, complete with frequent mention of traditional foods. Included is a selection of recipes, such as potato pancakes, applesauce cake, and other favorites.

October 2015

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