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The fate of the village lay in the hands of a stranger in whom the townspeople learned to distrust.
The years taught them complacency, growing comfortable in the wake of an evil curse. The stranger saw that he was needed to enlighten the people. But no one trusted him once they believed they were deceived. Madeleine, a beautiful young farm girl, finds her chance to escape the throes of the village slipping away because of the demands of her ailing father and the lack of support from her two tenebrous sisters. And in the shadows lay a sinister being capable of destroying her life and sapping out what remained of the life of her ailing father.
Madeleine still believed in the stranger until she was tested. Even though her decision conflicted with the villagers, she wound up learning how to manage her father's impending end all alone. She also learned to regret squandering her relationship with the stranger when she realized how much she needed his support at her father's funeral.
She also knew she made a grave error that might be irreparable. Now she will have to face her mounting turmoil alone and deal with the gravest perils. She grew so stricken with grief that she didn't know how to behave or where she could derive the strength to face the calamity of her debilitating concerns and her repressive loneliness.
Her father had been the key to her strength and now she needed to find new strength within herself, which baffled her because there was no one to reassure her that she in fact possessed it. It appeared to her that her father had taken that key with him to his grave. And, without the stranger, she faced yet another, horrible dilemma she never expected to ensue.
Excerpt from The Carpenter of Auguliere
The landlord woke up agitated. The thick morning fog had obscured his view when he tried to look out his window. He fumbled for his eyepiece as he mumbled to himself, “I have to find a way to stop this ogre from destroying Auguliere.” He marched around in pajamas, searching the big house for his black trousers and white shirt.
“Maybe I left them in the armoire,” he said.
He walked to it, finding them draped neatly over the polished wood door.
“I must have hot tea before my arduous journey to the village.”
He stuffed the hearth with kindling and hay, and ignited the pile with flint. In minutes, the fire came to life.
“Here, I must contemplate; I shall think of a way to snare this carpenter. How shall I do it? First, let me warm my spirits with tea.” The cat jumped onto his lap when he sat, purring loudly.
“Produce your purr, sweet kitty. It shall be a reminder to me who will be the benefactor of Auguliere. Make no mistake, my feline friend,” he pointed, “I shall prevail.”
He stood, releasing the cat, then stepped closer to the hearth, stoking the fire, rubbing his hands together to keep them warm.
“No beast nor man shall stop me from taking that which rightfully belongs to only me. All is mine by default,” he said, stroking the animal’s soft fur.
He picked up the kettle as it whistled and poured the hot beverage. He let his hands receive the steam, which radiated heat from the cup. The cat settled at his feet.
“Hot tea always leaves my spirits in fine fettle.”
He walked through the house, admiring his lofty possessions. He stopped short at a shelf with a talisman. He picked it up. It brought back memories.
“Mrs. Teivel.” This prompted him to say aloud, “I shall go to her…”
He looked up at the divine trinket, admiring it with special appreciation.
“She will have the answers I seek,” he said to the cat.
In another hour, he had hitched the mules to the wagon. Now he realized he had a purpose. He drove his wagon into town. When the wagon arrived at the street, he halted the team, stepped off the rig and tied the animals to the post. By now, the fog had started to lift, but the air was still murky and dank. He made his way to Mrs. Teivel’s shop.
The shabby curtains were drawn, and the place looked dark. When he tried the door, however, it opened easily. Once inside, he let the spring pull it shut.
The door had barely closed when she looked up. Her face reacted mechanically. Mrs. Teivel quickly stood to acknowledge the landlord. She was totally silent, as though she already knew what was on his mind. He stood in front of the counter like a man with a problem. When the woman spoke, her speech was checked by her predetermined knowledge.
“The way of the wood be on your mind. A carpenter’s trait is hard to find.”
“I am afraid of the irreparable damage this carpenter can do to Auguliere,” the landlord confessed.
“Strength and character dominate your fear, a remedy is always near.” The landlord allowed a timid smile to pervade his stiff expression.
“I am the rightful heir to all the wealth of Auguliere. I have tried to extinguish him by foreclosure of his shop, water restrictions to stop his works, destruction of the speech-impaired boy’s shanty, and still he overcomes these obstacles.”
She looked at him with the good eye, pounding her fists on the counter. “Do your deed, get your man…take the devil’s contraband. Take your time, wait and see. One hundred rubles belong to me.”
“One hundred rubles?”
She stared at him relentlessly, with the good eye, unmoving, making him step back.
“Either you pay or the carpenter shall play.”
He grumbled, pushing his lips together and gritting his broken teeth. He reached deep into the slovenly suit’s pockets for the currency. From a purse in his garment, he counted out one hundred rubles in paper notes. He maintained an angry sneer and continued to grumble as he handed over the money.
Mrs. Teivel grabbed it like a hungry lizard, quickly counting it and stashing it in her cleavage.
She turned and stepped up on a ladder. She reached up to the highest shelf and pulled out a filthy old jar with something black moving inside. When she returned to the counter, the landlord strained to see the contents of the odd container, barely visible through the dingy film that had collected on the glass over the years. She poured out something into a smaller, flat vessel, and then placed it in his waiting hands. The landlord stared at the creatures with curiosity.
“With these beetles that I give…let them multiply to live.” She smiled with contentment. “Put them in the aspen trees, where they mingle with the bees.” She closed the landlord’s hand and said, “Softening the wood’s their deadly deed, preventing the growth in the carpenter’s seed.”
The landlord stood frozen, a flicker of understanding on his face. When Mrs. Teivel returned to her chair, the landlord turned, gloating, and exited the shop.
The landlord drove his team to the town center, where he strolled into the park. Many of the older women who frequented the park were surprised to see the landlord lingering. Some turned their heads so as not to be recognized. The inhabitants of Auguliere always feared the landlord would suddenly ask for tax money anywhere and at any time; consequently, they shunned him. Mr. Robertson had a different agenda. Some women reported the landlord appeared as though he were enjoying the flowers and the plants by taking in the fragrance of their bouquet. Some saw this as a suspicious move. They speculated about what he was up to. They couldn’t see his devious plan as he kept the beetles concealed. He didn’t intend to frighten anyone or cause a scene.
In the park, the moment he released the creatures, they scampered away with remarkable speed, faster than he thought them capable, crawling up the bark and into the trees. They totally disappeared from sight almost instantly. When people saw him near the trees, they were too late to see his ambitious plan. No one saw any trace of insects. When the landlord saw his deed had been carried out, he smiled victoriously, and then quietly left the park.
He rode to Madeleine’s stable. Neither Madeleine nor Gilbert was around. The wagon was gone and the landlord knew Madeleine, Oleg and Pavel were in the market. The landlord saw his chance. No one saw him enter the barn. He strode up to the giant rack of toys and tools. He opened the flat container and allowed several beetles to escape onto the rack. They fled among the wooden toys. Once he had released them all, they scampered away, not to be seen again, until…
This is a curious story of redemption with ominous undertones in the spirit of some of the Brothers Grimm darker tales. A pall has fallen over a mountainous Russian village of several hundred years ago: “You can’t trust anyone anymore. Whenever you turn your back, someone’s waiting to steal from you. That isn’t the Auguliere I remember. I think something evil is going on here.” But a carpenter who represents a willingness of people to help one another (might be Christ or Obama) arrives out of nowhere one day. He is definitely the antidote needed to counter the economic fears paralyzing these remote villagers. Ironically, though at first welcomed, he soon becomes reviled.
This is more than an allegory for our times, it is great storytelling. We care about the characters and our pulled into their plight. And there is a mythic quality here, for example the dread of nights when there’s a full moon, which is haunting. This is drama taking place not on the page but in the theater of our imagination: “The next day, he never came back to town. Vladimir came to Madeleine looking for the landlord. Madeleine didn’t understand why Vladimir wanted to know, but her father knew. When he learned the night of the full moon loomed, and the landlord was missing, he folded his arms over his chest as a sign.”
I loved the short chapters, pithy dialogue, folk art cover. A concluding twist regarding “the landlord” seems hardly a surprise but it neatly brings the story’s plot threads together just as the last sentence of the Epilogue ties the story’s past to today’s present. Another quality I liked is that “the Carpenter of Auguliere” does not shy away from adult relationships (both between man / woman and among siblings), the failures of old age, jealousy and poverty.
There are elements of surprise — I have to admit I was never quite sure how this was going to turn out — and scenes of genuine tenderness. But best of all, when it was over, the story itself seemed just the right length. That’s the mark of a good storyteller. He or she knows when to stop. “More” starts to take away from the images that are well established; “less” would be, not enough.
Chevy Chaser/SouthSider Magazine
In a story whose telling reflects the simplicity of a folklore tale, The Carpenter of Auguliere begins in the tiny town of Auguliere nestled among green fields of tea, the only thing that seems to thrive in the dismal days of a drought the town is experiencing. The townspeople are reserved and skittish, fearing always the arrival of "the landlord" --the man who owns a majority of the land and its buildings, and is merciless in his collection of their rubles to cover their taxes and rent. It is the arrival of Gilbert O'Sullivan in a horse-drawn cart that signals the air of change as he unloads his carpenter tools and begins the making of a new life.
Madeleine, a young woman fearing her life will waste away in Auguliere, is the main character and sole caretaker of her dying father. It is her friends Vladimir and Agafon who lift her sagging spirits and their eventual friendship with Gilbert offers the eyes through which we are told the tale. As the complexion of the tiny village seems to improve, the setbacks reign upon them. As time moves on the mystery of the landlord and his family unwinds.
The simplicity of the telling is straightforfward, as if it has been told over and over--and it is no surprise when author D. Wayne Dworsky admits that he is retelling a story told to him by young Madeleine's father (or someone quite like him), for he was his grandfather.
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Number of Reviews: 1
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A Carpenter Comes to Town
Jessie Cen (PrimalDesire@aol.com), I am a fable lover, 03/16/2007
A book is awe-inspiring when it captures your imagination in ways that put the entire setting and characters in your mind in a meaningful way. So has The Carpenter of Auguliere. In a classic theme of good vs. evil, we see the beautiful little hamlet, nestled in the magnificent Sayan Mountains of Russia around the turn of the century, a time when ponies and horses were a way of life. We meet the people who populate this place and their attitude about each other. It seems that the village is falling apart because the resident carpenter has grown weary with age and sickness and his daughter, weary with despair. Everyone in the village goes about his business in a state of gloom, until a young carpenter rides into town in a wagon pulled by two enormous horses. He makes friends easily and earns the townspeople’s respect by rebuilding the dilapidated village. All is well until the town’s mayor, referred to as the “landlord” finds this do-gooder carpenter’s presence annoying. So, the he makes a plan to stop the carpenter’s works and drive him from Auguliere. I fell in love with the heroine, felt very sorry for the hero and was angered by the landlord’s evil plan. This proved to me that the author uses strong emotional attitudes to drive his story. Several chapters are real tearjerkers. You can see the story unfold page by page as these people do what they have to. As the reader meets the characters, he can see the powerful emotional turmoil that persists in their actions. In as much as this story is easy reading and very entertaining, I found it rather fable-like and was quite surprised at the ending. The writer has a wonderful way with words, drawing pictures inside your head by the ocean of similes, analogies, metaphors, alliterations, irony and symbols. This not to say that it is a literary novel, just well-written.
Also recommended: The Shunning
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