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Many people turn to Yevgeni Nikolayevich Rostow, abbot of a foremost monastery in Siberia, for coming to terms with haunting personal, relational and spiritual questions. As he is not happy with the declining morals and the increasing selfishness in today’s society, abbot Rostov decides to make a trip from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans Siberia Express, calling in on some eighteen cities along the way. In each city he answers questions from the local congregation, which together he calls his ‘Lessons’. These dialogues are enhanced by private conversations between the abbot and his companion - a young physicist - and sometimes with other people they meet. The Siberian Lessons – a spiritual novel – recounts their whereabouts. It offers a unique angle. Lessons on life, love and death are based on a unifying philosophy and embedded in an adventurous travel story in which two protagonists develop alongside the Lessons. Helped by a good dose of humour, it makes for an easy read.

The Lessons are given from a humanistic, unorthodox and ‘enlightenment’ point of view, putting the abbot in the tradition of the Gnostics, Cathari and the little known movement of the Mennonites. The abbot comes into conflicts of increasing severity with the Church and, indeed, with himself. At the very end, after a dramatic breakdown and meeting the new love in his life, he decides to leave the Church.

His companion, Stephen, the narrator, starts the journey as a ‘nerd’ who is more interested in computers than people. The confrontation with real life opens new horizons for him and step-by-step he discovers love. During the course of the book the two protagonists develop a deep friendship, leading to a kind of father – son relationship.

The first part of the book outlines its basic philosophy using interconnected metaphors. The second part is concerned with love in all its forms: friendship as a manifestation of universal love, romantic love, enduring love but also examples of failed love. The third part gives observations on family life, professional life, artistic life and religious life, the latter at the famed monastery of Yeniseysk. Finally, the fourth part deals with death: fear, impasse and depression, the meaning of life, the death of a loved one and your own death. There are ten pages of notes to help the reader. All this sounds rather heavy but the matter-of-fact style and the lively conversations make the contents easily accesible. The book has drawn excellent and often moving reactions. According to one reader, “It has changed my life”. Others say: “It describes exactly my problem” without explaining what their problem actually is. Some readers start early!

The book was published in English and translated into Dutch and Bulgarian. An E-book version in English is being prepared at Apple’s EBook store. The English version is currently available only from the author (mail to: jgw@wissema.com); we are working on making it available at Amazon. The Dutch and Bulgarian editions are available in the book stores or directly from the publishers, Uitgeverij Aspekt in Soesterberg respectively Kibea Publishers in Sofia. The book is based on the author’s coaching and councilling activities; for more information click here.