Having read a couple of Evan Rail's essays (quite good, by the way), seeing his name on a work of fiction piqued my interest. Fiction and nonfiction are two very different animals and expertise in one genre is no guarantee that an author can write well in the other. Fortunately, Mr. Rail can, although I suspect that this work of fiction may be closer to a true story than meets the eye.
The Strelsov Abbey's membership had dwindled to only seven monks, all of advanced age. Their operating funds were meager, so how could they raise the money needed urgently to repair their storm-damaged church? Just when it seemed hopeless, a generous businessman offered a deal they couldn't refuse: money to repair the church and to build a brewery at the abbey, with some of the profits from the beer sales going to repay the businessman's loan. Was the businessman's involvement on the up-and-up? And if it was, would the monks have second thoughts about the deal if they were not able to remain true to themselves?
It's an intriguing story about a religious order trying to maintain their ties to the past while looking ahead to the future, and balancing the demands of both. A key part of the story involves a travel writer who visits the abbey to write the story of their brewery. The author is also a travel writer who frequently writes about beer, which makes me think there may be more than a little fact mingled with his fiction. And it all makes for a very readable story.