Set in Moscow, this is the story of a 4-year-old boy, Romochka, who is abandoned by his mother and uncle. He leaves the empty apartment and goes out into the city, hungry, cold, and desperate. He is not alone; there are millions of homeless children and adults living on the streets.
The story takes place against the backdrop of Perestroika, a political movement within the Communist party that began in the year 2000 and is associated with Mikhail Gorbachev. Hornung shows us the city as we’ve never seen it before: towering hills of garbage, rodent infestation, a feral dog population, a cruelty towards the citizenry that is hard to imagine.
Such is the world in which this little boy finds himself. He follows a stray dog to the outskirts of the city. There, in the cellar of a ruined church, he finds a pack of feral dogs. In that dark underground place he is welcomed. He finds warmth, food, companionship, and love. Ultimately adopted by the pack, Romochka lives with them for two wrenching years.
It’s a shocking book. You’ll flinch in places. You’ll want to put it down. But you care so much for this boy, and for the dogs, you won’t be able to.