In 1910, acclaimed Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, in the later stage of his life, works rather than a writer but as the leader of the Tolstoyan Movement, whose basic tenets are brotherly love and world peace through pacifism, and a denouncement of material wealth and physical love. His chief follower is Vladimir Chertkov, who does whatever he requires to advance the cause. Chertkov hires a young man named Valentin Bulgakov to be Tolstoy's personal secretary in carrying out this work. Once ensconced in the life on the estate where much of the work is taking place, Bulgakov quickly learns that many there take from the movement only what he/she wants/believes. Also chief amongst the movement's wants is the deeding of all Tolstoy's writings to the people so that after his death it will become public domain. Tolstoy's wife, the Countess Sofya Andreevna Tolstoy, believes that her husband's writings are rightfully hers after he passes, as she wants and believes she deserves the monetary benefits derived from such. This places a strain between those in the movement, especially Chertov and the Tolstoy's daughter Sasha, and the Countess. Bulgatov acts as the mediator between the parties, he who feels he needs to do what is truly in Tolstoy's heart regardless of what Tolstoy may say or do.