Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

Paperback, 192 pages Published April 19th 2011 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published January 1st 2011) Original Title The Sojourn ISBN 1934137340 (ISBN13: 9781934137345)Literary AwardsJulia Ward Howe Prize Nominee (2012), Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction (2012), Chautauqua Prize (2012), National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2011)

This novel reminds me of a story a father might tell a son in long sections, by the fire of a remote cabin in the woods, perhaps over a period of years. It has no heights nor moments of extreme tension, but has a sort of inevitability to it, like a melody that sounds familiar but that we listen to with eyes wide and head canted to catch phrases that are new and put together in surprising ways.

The literature of World War I makes one a pacifist. Some of the best writing about that time forces upon one the futility of war. This is another to add to that canon. The use of language makes this novel special, as does the rich imagining of a young man’s life, and the angle: our narrator is a sharpshooter, a sniper, a marksman. The war looks different from a mountain hide and through the crosshairs of a precision scope, given that this work required hunting one’s target like an animal of prey. The best equipment and a gold braid inspire a degree of freedom and uncontested passage through forward lines. But the soul-destroying fact of the war just takes a little longer with these well-trained and disciplined boy soldiers.

The graceful arc of the story brings the reader full circle, through a life lived in the space of years. We feel older, too, when we close the book, and sit back to say simply, “it is done.” No pyrotechnics, just gorgeous language and solid storytelling. This is a man’s novel—it notices and mentions those things that men know and think and experience. Women will like it because it casts some light on a man and thoughts he wouldn’t ever articulate. It is Krivak’s first novel and it was published by the Bellevue Literary Press, which also published the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tinkers. From the publishers's website:
The aim of the Bellevue Literary Press is to produce original authoritative and literary works, both fiction and nonfiction, that focus on relationships to the human body, illness, health, and healing and range the intersection of the sciences and the arts.

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