The Universe has a way of working things out so recently I noticed the book in a box of books still packed from a move. I decided it was time to read. The Universe was correct. Though I had trouble getting into the beginning of the book, things turned around and soon I was drawn into the journey. We hold on to anger and resentments and they overcome us, possess us. We hold them for years just as Socrates did.

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Being summoned -- a rare event for any young cadet -- usually meant bad news or punishment. He was supposed to think of Vladimir Ivanov not as his uncle but as Chief Instructor. He also was not supposed to ask personal questions, though he had many -- about his parents and about his past. She had wiped his nose when he was sick and brought him to meals until he found his own way around.

Too young to live in abarrack, he had slept on a cot just off the infirmary wing until he was five. It was a lonely time, with no place of his own and nowhere he fit in. The cadets treated him like a mascot or pet dog -- petted one day, beaten the next. Most of the other boys had mothers or fathers at home; Sergei had only his uncle, so he worked hard to please the chief instructor.

Older cadets routinely bullied the younger ones, and physical beatings were commonplace. The instructors knew about it but looked the other way unless someone was seriously injured. They tolerated the fights because it spurred the younger boys to toughen up and stay alert. It was, after all, a military school. The first time Sergei was accosted by an older cadet, over in the corner of the compound, he started swinging wildly, sensing that if he backed down there would be no end to it.

The older boy gave him a good beating, but Sergei managed to get in one or two good punches, and the boy never bothered him after that. Another time he had come upon two cadets beating a new boy.

Sergei had attacked them with more rage than skill. They had backed off, treating the whole thing like a joke. Just after his fifth birthday, Sergei was moved into a barrack with the seven- to ten-year-olds. Older boys lived upstairs, and anyone over sixteen lived in another building. The older boys ruled the barracks. Every cadet dreaded a move to the next floor, where he again would be the youngest and therefore the prey.

Of the years prior to his arrival, Sergei had only hazy impressions -- as if he had been cocooned in another world, not yet awakened into this one. But sometimes, when he searched his memory, he glimpsed fleeting images of a large woman with arms as soft as bread dough and a man with a halo of white hair. Sergei wondered who they were; he wondered about a great many things. But he no more expected to visit such places than he thought to visit the moon or stars.

His world -- until that day in October of -- was defined largely by the stone walls, blockhouses, barracks, classrooms, and training grounds of the Nevskiy Military School. Sergei had not chosen this place, but he accepted it, as children must, and passed his early years in orderly routines of class work and physical training: military history, strategy and geography, riding, running, swimming, and calisthenics.

In the summer Sergei had to swim under the cold waters of Lake Krugloye while breathing through a hollow reed, and practice elementary skills with the saber, and shoot arrows with bows he could barely bend. When he was older he would shoot pistols and carbines. It was not a bad life or a good life, but the only one he knew.

Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc.


The Journeys of Socrates Quotes

Why did the author title this novel The Journeys of Socrates? What journeys does Socrates Sergei take? What sorts of terrain does he traverse and how does it reflect his inner journey? If you had to choose a different title for the novel, what might that be? Does Sergei have a home? What place s serve as his home?


The Journeys of Socrates


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