The novel by the Northern Ontario author focuses on the Ukraine-Russia war

The protagonist of Michael Kelly’s book is a Russian mother who travels to war-torn Ukraine to be reunited with her soldier son

An offering at the start of the Ukraine-Russia War to the mothers of captured Russian soldiers was the inspiration for a new self-published novel by Sudbury author Michael Kelly.

The Ukrainian military said Russian POWs would be released to their mothers if the women personally traveled to Kiev to pick them up.

Kelly said she was talking to another local author about this news in early 2022, and “that was the conversation that kind of sparked the idea” for her new novel.

That novel, titled Nina, is about a fictional Russian mother, named Nina, who gets a phone call saying her son is being held captive in Ukraine. He is free to go home, but only on one condition. He has to get it back.

Having already lost her husband to the war in Syria, Nina risks it to be a cruel hoax and jumps into his vehicle to retrieve her son.

After living through war-torn Ukraine, Nina is finally reunited with her son, only to find that he has fallen in love with a Ukrainian woman. The three finally escape together to Poland.

Kelly said he made the protagonist a Russian mother to show that there are people of all nationalities who just want peace, “that family is stronger than nationalism.”

Given Kelly published Nina as of June, Kelly reckons it’s one of the first novels published about the Ukraine-Russia war, which started just last February.

He said he himself is not of Ukrainian descent and has no connection to the country, other than growing up with friends of Ukrainian descent here in Sudbury and experiencing some of their traditions, such as Orthodox Christmas.

“I wanted to write about (the war), first of all, because it’s a current event right now,” he said.

“No. 2, I wanted to write about it because I wanted to highlight the fact that other than megalomaniacs like Putin, I don’t think there are many people interested in this war, whether they are Russians or Ukrainians.”

Kelly said he began writing as a hobby after his 2010 retirement from Cambrian College, where he was an economics professor, teaching project management courses to the corporate sector.

His first novel, Exireasis about a planet undergoing environmental stress and humans who travel there to help the people of Exireas fix their environmental problems.

Kelly said the “biggest problem with the book is that the action doesn’t really start until the second chapter. So there’s kind of a slow start. This is the main criticism I get from people who have read it.

While writing Exireas it took him a decade, Kelly said he churned out Nina in about a month. “Nina it had some very good editors who understood that it was imperative to get it out on time, because it was a timely subject,” he said.

If you are interested in purchasing Nina (which is available in both physical and digital formats) you can do this via Kelly’s website or by emailing him at [email protected]

Heidi Ulrichsen is the Associate Content Editor of She also covers education and the arts scene.

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