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The Sojournby Andrew Krivak
Synopses & Reviews
The Sojourn, finalist for the National Book Award and winner of both the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and inaugural Chautauqua Prize, is the story of Jozef Vinich, who was uprooted from a 19th-century mining town in Colorado by a family tragedy and returns with his father to an impoverished shepherds life in rural Austria-Hungary. When World War One comes, Jozef joins his adopted brother as a sharpshooter in the Kaisers army, surviving a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps and capture by a victorious enemy.
A stirring tale of brotherhood, coming-of-age, and survival, that was inspired by the authors own family history, this novel evokes a time when Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, and Germans fought on the same side while divided by language, ethnicity, and social class in the most brutal war to date. It is also a poignant tale of fathers and sons, addressing the great immigration to America and the desire to live the American dream amidst the unfolding tragedy in Europe.
"Krivak follows his revelatory memoir (A Long Retreat) with this lush, accomplished novel. After Jozef Vinich's mother dies while saving his life as an infant, Jozef and his widowed father relocate from a small Colorado mining town back to their Austrian homeland. Though Jozef's boyhood is marred by lingering feelings of abandonment, resentment, ingrained sadness, and two bullying stepbrothers, his life is enhanced by frequent dreams of his mother and a close friendship with troubled distant cousin Zlee. Both boys revel in the family hunting trips, which hone their sharpshooting abilities, expertise put to use when both go off to fight in WWI as marksmen, over Jozef's father's objections. Krivak dexterously exposes the stark, brutal realities of trench warfare, the horror of a POW camp, and the months of violent bloodshed that stole the boys' innocence. Once home from war, the author's depiction of Jozef's arduous return to life, love, and family is charged with emotion and longing, revealing this lean, resonant debut as an undeniably powerful accomplishment. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Surging in pace and momentum, The Sojourn is a deeply affecting narrative conjured by the rhythms of Krivak's superb and sinuous prose. Intimate and keenly observed, it is a war story, love story, and coming of age novel all rolled into one. I thought of Lermontov and Stendhal, Joseph Roth, and Cormac McCarthy as I read. But make no mistake. Krivak's voice and sense of drama are entirely his own." Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe
"Splendid...a novel for anyone who has a sharp eye and ear for life." NPR, All Things Considered
"[A] powerful, assured first novel....Packed with violence and death, yet wonderfully serene in its tone, Andrew Krivaks The Sojourn — shortlisted for this year's National Book Award — reminds us that one never knows from where the blow will fall and that, always, in the midst of life we are in death....If the early pages of The Sojourn sometimes recall Cormac McCarthy (especially The Crossing), the heart of the book is a harrowing portrait of men at war, as powerful as Ernst Junger's classic Storm of Steel and Isaac Babel's brutally poetic Red Cavalry stories." Washington Post
"Novels set during World War I (think of The English Patient or A Long Long Way) possess a desolation, violence and a desperate longing to go back, to return to life as it was lived before the war....[The Sojourn] is an ever-hopeful series of fresh starts and dashed hopes, a beautiful tale of persistence and dogged survival, set in the mountains, villages and battlefields of a Europe that exists only in memories and stories." Los Angeles Times
"A captivating, thoughtful narrative...and poignant reminder of how humanity was so greatly affected by what was once called the war to end all wars." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[The Sojourn] can be read as a classic of war. It is beautifully plotted, as rapt and understated as a hymn....[Krivak] writes hunting scenes as evocative as those in The Deer Hunter. Then he outstrips that film in rending the harrowing and seductive elements of war." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"An engrossing narrative that goes beyond a war novel into a character study of loss and redemption." Rain Taxi Review of Books
"Krivak writes of war with the skill of a mature novelist/observer. Death, dysentery, starvation, chaos, amputation, prison. All are here in elegant prose — plus touches of rare beauty and tenderness as Jozef comes full circle with is past, his father, his country — even the idea of his fathers reverse migration. All of this in less than two hundred pages." CounterPunch
"Unsentimental yet elegant...with ease, [The Sojourn] joins the ranks of other significant works of fiction portraying World War I — Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front or Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms." Library Journal (starred review)
"Deftly wrought, quietly told...Krivak studied all the Great War novels before writing, and the result is a debut novel at home amongst those classics. Highly recommended." Historical Novels Review (Editor's Choice)
"The ghost of Hemingway informs some of Krivak's notes from the front lines, while several other literary influences seem to be evident in his slender book, including the Italian novelist and memoirist Primo Levi, himself the veteran of a very long walk through Europe, and, for obvious reasons, the Charles Frazier of Cold Mountain. Yet Krivak has his own voice, given to lyrical observations on the nature of human existence." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Rendered in spare, elegant prose, yet rich in authentic detail, The Sojourn...stands with the most memorable stories about World War I. Krivak's tale has an archetypal quality; it is a retelling of the hero's inner and outer journey through impossibly rugged landscapes, toward survival and wholeness." ForeWord Reviews
Uprooted from a nineteenth century mining town in Colorado by a shocking family tragedy, young Jozef Vinich returns with his father to an impoverished shepherd's life in rural Austria-Hungary. When war comes, Jozef is sent as a sharpshooter to the southern front, where he must survive the killing trenches, a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps, and capture by a victorious enemy. Strikingly contemporary though replete with evocative historical detail, The Sojourn will join the ranks of the great classic fiction of World War I.
A stunning debut novel of brutality and survival on the Southern Front of World War I.
About the Author
The Sojourn, winner of the Chautauqua Prize and finalist for the National Book Award, is Andrew Krivak's first novel. Krivak is also the author of A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life, a memoir about his eight years in the Jesuit Order, and editor of The Letters of William Carlos Williams to Edgar Irving Williams, 1902-1912, which received the Louis L. Martz Prize. The grandson of Slovak immigrants, Krivak grew up in Pennsylvania, has lived in London, and now lives with his wife and three children in Massachusetts where he teaches in the Honors Program at Boston College.
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