Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Night of the Cossacks—a review

I downloaded the first chapter of the Night of the Cossacks and that was it—I ordered copies for my teenage grandsons far enough ahead of Christmas that I could read the story before I gave it away! Tom Blubaugh has researched the type of life the Cossacks lived and woven a fascinating tale of Nathan, a sixteen year old Jewish boy kidnapped by a Cossack soldier and forced to become a Cossack. He is renamed Stephan and learns to completely suppress his Jewish identity.

Night of the Cossacks is a story of loss and perseverance—he first loses his father in an accident and then the rest of his family and his way of life when he is kidnapped. He adjusts to the ways of the Cossacks and quickly earns his place in the unit he is a part of through his marksmanship. As the unit’s “hunter,” responsible for getting meat for the unit. He appears to be progressing in the Russian army when he loses Nikoli, his mentor/captor whom he had grown to love. Then he loses again when his apparent promotion turns out to be a betrayal and he must flee for his life from his boyhood friend and the Russian military. Nathan/Stepan’s wits, his ability to discern and think his way out of a jam, the innate eye-hand coordination and the skills learned in the military keep him alive through a series of life threatening, harrowing circumstances. Through it all he perseveres; he doesn’t give up hope, and struggles to not become bitter and resentful toward God.

The Russian secret police has a reputation for always finding their man. Once they are on your trail they will pursue wherever you go, so Nathan had a knowing that he would be a hunted man for the rest of his life. However, in his flight he learns of far away America and decides to go. This decision means he must say a gut wrenching goodbye to the horse who has been with him since boyhood—a difficult decision. He perseveres, hops a ship as a laborer and works his way to his new homeland. Even on the ship a Russian soldier appears to take him in! So close to escape and yet so far! Only quick thinking on the part of the captain saves the day. Nathan succeeds in his attempt to escape to America and begin his own family. After all the losses, finally he has the opportunity to have love and family once again.

Thomas Blubaugh’s characters are strong; a reader quickly identifies with Nathan and cheers for him all the way. Scenes are vivid and emotional; a strong story line pulls the reader in. You have to find out what happens! With all the adventure, the suspense of life and death close calls and Nathan’s quick reflexes—you can see why I immediately bought copies for my teenage grandsons! They would love the adventure and suspense, and identify with the main character who flees from Russia, all across Europe on his way to America. There is a hint at romance but no torrid love scenes; just enough love to hold the interest of girls! I appreciated the fact that Nathan’s character, ethics and principles were guided by his early childhood training as a Jewish boy—which means that they followed biblical principles. A believer can see that God was watching over this one to keep him safe, to ensure that he would live to do the good works which God ordained for him to do! The ending hints at what may have happened next . . .This is a good, clean story and suitable for any teenager (or oldster).

The story behind the story is also intriguing. Tom’s grandfathers all died before he was born so he never knew them. When he became a grandfather himself, he had no model. There was a gaping hole in his life experience so he began to research with the little information he had—that his grandfather had been a Cossack. How could a Jew be a Cossack? This book answers that question and paints a vivid picture of life as it was a generation or two ago. He researched to leave a legacy for his grandchildren and somewhere along the line it morphed into a novel!

Bravo, Tom! I join you in wishing I could have known your grandfather! I've read some comments about Tom's book that people have been encouraged to research their own heritage. I think that is a good thing. . .it's as though we fit more solidly where we are when we know who we came from and how we got here.

Anyone buying a book through Amazon on the 8th can also receive free gifts. Look here to choose:

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