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Summary

It is the late 15th century and a village healer in Russia called Laurus is powerless to help his beloved as she dies in childbirth, unwed and without having received communion. Devastated and desperate, he sets out on a journey in search of redemption. But this is no ordinary journey: it is one that spans ages and countries, and which brings him face-to-face with a host of unforgettable, eccentric characters and legendary creatures from the strangest medieval bestiaries.

Laurus's travels take him from the Middle Ages to the Plague of 1771, where as a holy fool he displays miraculous healing powers, to the political upheavals of the late 20th century. At each transformative stage of his journey, he becomes more revered by the church and the people, until he decides, one day, to return to his home village to lead the life of a monastic hermit - not realizing that it is here that he will face his most difficult trial yet.

Laurus is a remarkably rich novel about the eternal themes of love, loss, self-sacrifice, and faith, from one of Russia's most exciting and critically acclaimed novelists.

©2015 Eugene Vodolazkin; translation copyright 2015 by Lisa C. Hayden (P)2017 Tantor

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Simply beautiful

This is my second time through this masterpiece in a little over 12 months. It’s scope is immense both in terms of the lands visited and the lives lived by the central character. There are truths to be unearthed throughout this multilayered journey. One constant theme to note is time, and its cyclical nature, especially when viewed in a liturgical framework. Might time actually be a spiral that climbs upwards as it repeats it regular cycles? The author masterfully presents what may seem to us an alien, pre-scientific worldview, but at the same time leaves you questioning if it might contain underlying truths about reality that we have lost in our secular materialist culture. If the modern obsession with reducing every experience down to its constituent parts has left you feeling insulted against the transcendent (the beautiful, the good, and the true), this book may puncture much needed holes and let in some light.

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An exceptional novel and a great performance

This book about a medieval Russian healer hardly sounds enticing but the scope of this story transcends times and places. It has exceptional lyrical qualities which come across very well both in the translation and the audio narration. The main character is full of warmth and empathy with almost saintly yet deeply humane features. Those he encounters are equally well drawn and memorable and I found myself hooked both to the Kindle and the audio version in an attempt to find out what happened next. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time and I can only recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great story told in an unusual way.

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An outstanding novel

And so is the translation and especially the reading. For a useful intro, see the TED talk on this novel by Archbishop Rowan Williams.

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  • Yixiao
  • 27-11-17

Speechless

buy a hard copy as well!
read, re-read, doesn't matter you are religious or not but definitely helps if you know a thing or two about Russian Orthodoxy much like Brothers Karamazov. When you know nothing about Russia's spiritual heritage, books like this are still AAA grade reading material. If you are sympathetic to Orthodox spirituality, then the reading experience would be stratospherically enhanced- an altogether tear inducing, core shaking experience.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Diogenes Pendergast
  • 13-11-17

A true modern classic

I don't care much for modern literary fiction, but this amazing novel shows that all is not lost for modern era. And as if to contradict me, almost none of the novel takes place in the modern era (although there are time jumps).

This is a compelling story of a love found and lost, of a boy growing up a healer, of dealing with death, ubiquitous in the land of the Medieval Rus'. It is also an incredibly pious story, a story of a man's struggle to come to terms with his lost love through pious acts of healing, and becoming a 'holy fool.'

A must-read (listen)!

#Audible20

“AUDIBLE 20 REVIEW SWEEPSTAKES ENTRY”

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  • MyKidsMom
  • 08-06-20

Deeply Spiritual

As a former atheist, now BA christian, former Russian citizen, now an American I can say that this novel has multiple dimensions and meanings. Deeply spiritual, well written, well narrated it paints a portrait like no other. It captures the spirit of old Russia and the power of faith.

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  • Father Silouan
  • 07-11-18

Wonderful

This book paints a very vivid picture of middle age life in Russia. While it is fiction I think the author has created an accurate portrait of the simple beliefs of Russian Orthodox peasants and the Fools for Christ and Elders of the Middle Ages. I am sure I will listen to this again and again.

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  • Adam Shields
  • 17-07-18

Hard to describe, but pick it up

I do not often just say, go buy a book, but if you like the mix of books that I tend to review, just go and buy the book. Laurus is a modern Russian novel, wonderfully translated to English. Vodolazkin, the author, is a midevil scholar who has recreated the alien nature of the midevil Russian world wonderfully.

I really have a hard time trying to figure out how to describe Laurus. It is about an ancient Christian healer. So it is sort of Christian fiction. But it is by a Russian so it does not fit into any of the traditional modern christian novel categories. Laurus takes Christianity very seriously, but using what I can only describe as magical realism to give structure to the healing and mysticism of the Russian Orthodox Christianity that is illustrated so well here. In some ways Laurus reads more like a book of ancient Christian devotional literature as much as it read like a novel.

Laurus opens with a boy, Arseny, trained by Christopher to be a healer. The book then follows that boy as through four acts of his life, each with a different name. There is trauma, healing, spiritual wisdom, magic (and by that I don’t mean spells, but the magical and beautiful reality of faith and real life.)

I mostly listened to this as an audiobook, although I have it both as audio and kindle books. I may have more thoughts about it when I read it again. Right now I am still basking in the glow of a book enjoyed. But this is a book that deserves to be read again and I will.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-01-21

Masterpiece

At times strange, but ultimately profound, Laurus is Orthodox spirituality at its finest. I recommend rereading to fully absorb it.

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  • RANDALL JAFFE
  • 10-11-20

Wonderful presentation of life in 1400-1500’s Russia

Colorful story with many interesting characters and situations unique to that era. Lisa c Hayden’s translation into our modern vernacular eg. “No can do” makes listing to the book quite enjoyable. And I learned much from the book.

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  • John Wehling
  • 06-11-20

Remarkable

I’ve now read and listened to this novel three times in almost as many years and it is truly a remarkable achievement. A profound work of spiritual beauty, and something of a miracle for its insight into the Russian and Orthodox world.

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  • GSM
  • 16-08-20

Moving story

A beautiful tale of a good man in the middle age. Conveys what faith felt like. Well translated and read.

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  • R. C. Jordan
  • 08-04-20

Surely a Classic

A fantastic book. So grateful to the author who clearly did his homework in every sense. Read it and weep.

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