She repeated continually, ‘My God! my God!’ But neither ‘God’ nor ‘my’ had any meaning to her. –Anna Karenina

“She repeated continually, ‘My God! my God!’ But neither
‘God’ nor ‘my’ had any meaning to her. The idea of seeking help in her
difficulty in religion was as remote from her as seeking help from
Alexey Alexandrovitch [her husband] himself, although she had never
had doubts of the faith in which she had been brought up. She knew
that the support of religion was possible only upon condition of
renouncing what made up for her the whole meaning of life. She was not
simply miserable, she began to feel alarm at the new spiritual
condition, never experienced before, in which she found

Anna here is confronting her plight. She has confessed to her lover
Vronsky that she is pregnant and to her husband that she is having an
affair. Now what to do?

 This is where I as a reader sit up and drop my jaw in awe at Tolstoy’s
creation. He neatly fillets the earthly love of which Anna has been
protagonist for the last 700 pages or so from the religious concept of
love, in three sentences. If Anna’s doomed love affair with Vronsky
was the kind of love affair that religion could indeed salve, why
would it hold our attention so tightly? As I learned from the late
Arnold Weinstein, extravagance is truth. We readers live vicariously
through Anna’s story because it is such an incredible, extravagant
adventure, full of intricate and delicately realized gestures, words
and emotions. It’s the extravagance that resonates with our own lives:
how many breaths have you taken during which love—earthy, Earthly
love—composed the entire meaning of your life?