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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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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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  • 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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review 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)!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful