Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Defender, by Nicholas Kalashnikoff

This book is the story of Turgen, a man who lived alone high in the hills of Siberia.  He was of a different tribe than his nearest neighbors, who for superstitious reasons believed him to be in league with Satan, and therefore largely avoided him.

One winter, this solitary man noticed that the noble rams in the mountains were suffering from hunger and looking weak and thin.  Turgen decided to carry some hay up the mountain on a sled and leave it for them.  Over time the rams grew to accept his presence (although they did not completely trust him), and Turgen was delighted to see the herd slowly grow healthy and produce strong offspring.

In the wake of Turgen's gifts to the rams, he has a dream in which his deceased wife and son visit him, and lead him into the presence of the Great Spirit.  The Great Spirit tells Turgen that He is pleased with his care of the rams, which gives him confidence and joy in continuing this task.

During these months, Turgen is also slowly building a relationship with Marfa, a poor widow who lives down the hill, and her two children, Timofey and Aksa.  Marfa creates a comforting and cozy place for Turgen to rest and visit, and Turgen enjoys the companionship of the mother and the children alike, and helps provide the family with much-needed food in exchange for milk from their cow.

This is such an easy-to-read, gentle story that I enjoyed quite a bit.  The author was actually exiled to Siberia for several years before emigrating to the United States and becoming a citizen, so he speaks of the people there with kindness and affection.

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