Marta tells stories of her childhood in the Ukraine and especially of her family's warm and cluttered kitchen. During one of her story-telling sessions she admits that she misses having an icon in the room. Gregory sets out to get her one by first going to the British Museum to study them, and then by going to an expensive jewelry store to buy one. Learning that he cannot afford anything close to what she described to him, he determines to make her one.
With no materials of his own, he has to overcome his shyness and ask the hatmaker and the candy shop lady for scraps from their trade. As the project develops so does his courage and ingenuity - and his willingness to give up his own comforts for the good of another. In fact, when the gift is finished, Marta does not cry and hug him (as his mother does) but shakes his hand as if he were a grown man.
No matter what your religious convictions, this is a beautiful story of the transforming power of self-giving love; it's definitely one of the loveliest stories I have read in a long time.
Rumer Godden is a fine author who skillfully weaves stories of faith without the saccharine. She wrote The Kitchen Madonna in 1967. Previous Godden titles that I've reviewed are: China Court, In this House of Brede, and Kingfishers Catch Fire.