A good read if one wants to think deeply about the meaning of life and how people have brought meaning out of suffering unjustly in an oppressive society (the Jews in Tsarist Russia about 1914 in particular). It is very realistically written, and I enjoyed its use of Russia ideas and vocabulary (like "verst") without explanation - the reader has the proper feeling that this setting is real, and the reader gets to figure out what these words mean themselves. This book is not recommended for the faint of heart; the descriptions of how the main character suffers are very vivid, at times graphic. Nor is it a fast-moving book. Still, it is very much worth the read in order to experience a society and life in that society to remember that the depths of human depravity and suffering are never very far away from us.