Something terrible is happening here. Something terrible has already happened.
Snegurochka opens in Kiev in 1992, one year after Ukraine’s declaration of independence. Rachel, a troubled young English mother, joins her journalist husband on his first foreign posting in the city. Terrified of their apartment’s balcony with its view of the Motherland statue she develops obsessive rituals to keep her three-month old baby safe. Her difficulties expose her to a disturbing endgame between Elena Vasilyevna, the old caretaker, and Mykola Sirko, a shady businessman who sends Rachel a gift. Rachel is the interloper, ignorant, isolated, yet also culpable with her secrets and her estrangements. As consequences bear down she seeks out Zoya, her husband s caustic-tongued fixer, and Stepan, the boy from upstairs who watches them all.
Betrayal is everywhere and home is uncertain, but in the end there are many ways to be a mother.
I found this book to be almost claustrophic in its’ feel as it explores the isolation felt by a new mother in a new land, as her husband moves to Kiev to take up a new job, and his wife has to deal with anxieties and paranoia as she comes to terms with her new life. While her husband finds the switch an exciting challenge, we get to witness Rachel trying to deal with day to day life amongst a city wondering why outsiders would be there in the harsh times they are facing in their country, not long after Ukraine gets its’ independence.
Rachel gets through each day with strict coping mechanisms, which almost drive her husband to insanity, but to her it is the only way to make it through day by day as she tries to navigate her way through life with a language barrier and a different way of life.
With flashbacks to her childhood, we get to understand her character a little more and what led her to have these anxieties and issues and you really get the sense of isolation she feels, despite the best intentions of some of the locals who are only there to try and help her.
A very timely read seeing as Ukraine is so much in the news at the moment, and a very powerful story and exploration of life in a different country.
“Souljourner is a cult-classic in the making. It is by turns bizarre, bewildering, hilarious, infuriating and utterly engaging – strap yourself in and prepare to be swept up in this extraordinary karmic rollercoaster of a book.”
Where to start with Souljourner?
Let’s start with the author – Paul Steven Stone is either a madman or a genius – probably both – and he’s written one of the most gripping and enjoyable books we’ve ever come across.
It begins with a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
– and that my friends sets the tone for everything that’s to come.
David Rockwood Worthington is in prison serving a life sentence for the murder of his 3rd wife and his incarceration is not going smoothly.
He’s being terrorised by rival gangs who insist he owes them each $6 million dollars – debts of which David claims to be entirely unaware. This perilous situation is complicated by the fact that the Internal Revenue Service wants to talk to him about the $18 million dollars he has stashed in secret Cayman Island accounts – accounts which David also claims to be entirely unaware of.
On top of all that, his prison psychologist doesn’t seem to like him very much.
The central premise of this novel – if it is indeed a novel (the narrator insists it is in fact a warning letter from your soul’s previous incarnation) – is that our souls make their eternal journey towards enlightenment in the company of a single unchanging ‘karmic pod’ of companion souls who take on different roles in each of our incarnations.
In one life a soul may appear as your mother, in the next your best friend, in the next your sworn enemy, in the next your lover and so on for eternity.
The identities of the souls in your ‘karmic pod’ are hidden from you in life – this letter/novel seeks to wise you up to who’s who in your karmic pod to help you avoid making the same mistakes that landed our David in prison.
If you’re looking for a book that excites and takes you off on all different tangents, then look no further!! I found this to be a fabulously quirky read, that looks into the roles of ‘karma’ and unreliable narrators and it took me to places I still don’t think I’ve arrived back from!!
David is a the heart of the story – in jail for murdering his 3rd wife – and being targeted by gangs for money they claim he owes them, while also being investigated by the IRS about the millions they claim he’s hiding from them…. he swears he knows nothing about any money! Do we dare believe a ‘murderer’?!
The narration is top notch – you’re being ‘chatted’ to and on the premise that you are here reading this book for a reason – fate has bought this book into your life at this time for a reason! And that begins the journey of looking into reincarnations and all things happening for a reason to bring you to certain points in your life. Is it payback for sins committed in a previous life?
With David being in jail, he has plenty of time on his hands to think and that starts his look back over the people and circumstances in his life that leads him to this point, and I loved that conflict he finds himself in as he tries to make sense of it all.
We also hear the viewpoint of Dr Robert who is interviewing David, and gets him to open up more about relationships and to try and explain why he has blackouts and no memories of the events that led him to jail. And there are interjections from his dead wives, adding their take on matters, and what you’re left with is a mash up of conflicts and confusion!
Added to the mix are plenty of Beatles mentions that had me reaching for a Beatles playlist, and a shock ending that caught me off guard!! Can’t wait to go back and read this one again to enjoy the creativity and karmic madness!! Fabulous!