The Forest Horses
by Byrna Barclay
The Forest Horses is a study in contrasts between two women, one an indomitable spirit living through a turbulent age and the other a troubled soul living in settled times.
On midsummer's eve, 1941, Lena, keeper of the forest horses of Gotland, is kidnapped by a Russian poacher along with her herd, and taken to Leningrad just in time to endure the two-year German siege of that city during World War II. Her captor, Pytor, becomes her husband and they and their horses take part in a daring and dangerous rescue effort that smuggles food and other supplies into Leningrad across the ice of Lake Ladoga. On one winter trip across this "Road of Life", their daughter Signe is born into an icy world of strife, deprivation and horses. After the war, the family immigrates to the Canadian prairies to start a new life.
Interwoven with this story is the journey of that same Signe, daughter of the ice, who departs from Regina on midsummer's eve 2005 to make her first journey back to the land where she was born. She's on a mission to search out her beginnings, her people, and the possible meaning to be found for a life that has come to somehow mirror the harsh conditions of its beginning.