Book Review: One Woman’s Life

Irena Praitis- One Woman’s Life (2010)
Synopsis: Ona Kartanas has lived through extraordinary circumstances. Born in Lithuania during World War I she was orphaned at an early age and struggled to find her way in life.  She experienced the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Lithuania during World War II, was interrogated at gunpoint on more than one occasion, lived in displaced persons camps in Germany after the war, and immigrated to Colombia, South America. Eventually she and her family immigrated to the United States.  This book offers a series of prose vignettes that chronicle her story of loss, war, displacement, poverty, and struggle.  Ona’s life highlights the strength of the human spirit and the human capacity to not only survive, but to triumph.



This book is very deceiving. The title and the cover aren’t very appealing, but the writing is really wonderful. Such simple and eloquent prose. Praitis depicts vignettes of Lithuanian woman Ona Kartanas from a derelict childhood to a war-torn adult life.

I felt like I was reading the journal entries of a war survivor and was rewarded with snapshots of this one woman’s life. Ona, was orphaned as a child and when taken in by another family she had to work hard on the farm to make her keep. The only thing that kept her going was her positive school experience and the thought that she could continue her education. When that was no longer a reality, she takes off and finds her place with another family before furthering her education and getting a job in the city. She meets Jouzas who becomes her husband and goes on to have five children with him. Ona is a strong female who worked very hard and despite the emerging war spilling intoLithuaniashe does whatever she can to survive, to feed her children and help the vulnerable. She is the woman whose family is starving but she still hands over a piece of bread to another family in need.

I couldn’t believe when Ona birthed in a Hospital in the middle of a bombing situation where all the staff and patients fled. She stayed by her baby’s side protecting and nurturing despite the threat to their survival happening outside. At times I got frustrated with her husband Jouzas, who in comparison to Ona I felt he was weak at times. He didn’t seem like a strong man, he wasn’t the breadwinner, the protector or the decision maker which was traditionally expected of men of the time. I feel he let Ona down many times but her resilience and strength probably created the only stability and love for those five young children raised in an environment of fear, hate and prejudice.

I really liked Irena’s writing style and the way she told Ona’s story through the vignettes- she gave me just enough information without giving me too much all at once. Despite the trauma and atrocities that Ona’s family (and many, many others!) experienced, this is a great read, written by a talented writer.

One Woman’s Life can be purchased here.

4/5 rating

Coming up: Guest Post with Irena Praitis, author of One Woman’s Life.

*I received a printed copy of One Woman’s Life on behalf of Diversion Press and their April/ May Book Blog Tour*


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