I can't honestly say I enjoyed this book, yet it was a good book to read. It wasn't enjoyable because it was so sad and heart breaking. I think every Christian should read this book, for that matter every American should read this book. We need to understand what happens when freedom is no longer free. Could gulag appear in America? Not if we don't allow our freedoms to be taken away, otherwise, yes they could. After reading this book, I will do whatever it takes to retain my freedom!
Ivan Denisovich Shukhov has been sentenced to a camp in the Soviet gulag system, accused of becoming a spy after being captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war during World War II. He is innocent, but is nonetheless punished by the government for being a spy. His sentence is for ten years, but the book indicates that most people never leave the camps. The final paragraph suggests that Shukhov serves exactly ten years—no more and no less—but whether this is merely Shukhov's hope is left for the reader to decide.
The day begins with Shukhov waking up sick. For waking late, he is sent to the guardhouse and forced to clean it—a minor punishment compared to others mentioned in the book. When Shukhov is finally able to leave the guardhouse, he goes to the dispensary to report his illness. Since it is late in the morning by now, the orderly is unable to exempt any more workers and Shukhov must work regardless.
The rest of the day mainly speaks of Shukhov's squad (the 104th, which has 24 members), their allegiance to the squad leader, and the work that the prisoners (zeks) do—for example, at a brutal construction site where the cold freezes the mortar used for bricklaying if not applied quickly enough. Solzhenitsyn also details the methods used by the prisoners for survival; the whole camp lives by the rule of survival of the fittest. Tyurin, the deputy foreman of gang 104 is kind but strict and the squad grows to like him more as the book goes on. Tyurin is liked because he understands the prisoners and he tells them a lot and does a lot to help them. He shares stories with them and the prisoners feel bad for his situation because his wife left him before he went into the camp. Shukhov is one of the hardest workers in the squad and is generally well respected. Rations at the camp are scant, but for Shukhov they are one of the few things to live for. He conserves the food that he receives and is always watchful for any item that he can hide and trade for food at a later date.