PILGRIMAGE TO DZHVARI by Valeria Alfeyeva

PILGRIMAGE TO DZHVARI

A Woman's Journey of Spiritual Awakening
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A passionate, gorgeously written fictional account of an intellectual Russian woman's journey back to God and the Orthodox Christianity of her ancestors. ``Veronica,'' a widow in her mid-40s, journeys to the ancient monastery of Dzhvari in Georgia with her beloved son Mitya. The monastery is tiny and austere, and mother and son are met by just three monks. Still, life there is a revelation. Practicing the ancient ``Jesus Prayer,'' taking Communion, and talking with the terse, insightful abbot, Father Michael, is like finding water after a lifetime of thirst to this member of the Russian intelligentsia. Although women generally are forbidden in the monastery, Veronica is given special permission to stay for a period of weeks. Realizing that her days there are numbered, she drinks in everything, talking with the abbot at every opportunity. Their conversations are anything but light: ``Father Michael had said that in order to believe in God and receive this truth you must offer your entire being--your heart, will, understanding, mode of life. What can understanding do by itself?'' When their brief stay is up, both mother and son seem to have tasted something of a truth that passes human understanding. The story then jumps ahead six years: Veronica, now 50, visits another near-abandoned monastery (this one for women) while she awaits word from her son, who has become a monk. Though lonely, she puts her life in God's hands, reflecting on all the holy and instructive encounters she has had since she became a Christian a mere decade before. Miraculously, she receives word that her son has been sent to serve as a priest in a remote parish: God is good. She'll join Mitya and will live the rest of her life plumbing the mystery of Christianity with her son. A contemporary Way of the Pilgrim, first published in Russia in 1989, that's also a profoundly moving look at the state of one brave Russian woman's soul.

Pub Date: July 2nd, 1993
ISBN: 0-517-59194-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1993