Suspend disbelief for a few hours and prepare for an absorbing trip into Moscow’s grimy underbelly where the destitute rummage through garbage dumps to eke out an existence and mothers sell their babies. Into this environment comes Romochka, a four-year-old boy abandoned during the mass eviction of a broken down apartment building. The child follows a dog to her lair and canine family in the basement of a broken church. For two years, Romochka learns survival skills from his pack, earning a place in this hard-bitten world where smells and the hunt mean everything.Even as he gains a place for himself within the pack, Romochka’s natural curiosity forces him to seek out human companionship with tragic consequences when friendship with a restaurant worker results in a bitter betrayal that will alter the course of his life.
Emotive, gut wrenching and tender, this variation of the “wolf boy” myth graphically illustrates the hardships of street children, found not only in Russia but also worldwide. The bonds between humans and dogs and the nature of humanity are central themes to this deceptively deep read.