The Sojourn
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The Sojourn

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,268 ratings  ·  266 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 shepherd’s life in rural Austria-Hungary. When World War One comes, Jozef joins his...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Bellevue Literary Press (first published 2011)
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When I looked back over my 2011 reading year, I found there were just too many times when I finished a book I wasn't enjoying simply because I'd gone so far into it that I figured I may as well push on to the end. For 2012 I've decided to change that. So, sorry to say, The Sojourn is the first victim of my new policy.

I read a little over half of the book. Were I to finish, I'd probably give it three stars. Andrew Krivak writes well and the plot has potential. But the more I read, the flatter it...more
Diane S.
Although this book is short in pages it is dense in content. Covers the lives of two boys before, during and after the
first World War. It starts with a death and a mother's desperate attempt to save the life of her child, in a mining town, 19th century Colorado.

Returning to his home in rural Austria-Hungary, Josef and his father lead the lives of impoverished sheperds. They are soon joined by another young boy named Zlee, who his father agrees to raise as his own. Though their lives are short o...more
switterbug (Betsey)
World War I was the deadliest conflict in Western history, but contemporary portrayals of war in literature and cinema primarily focus on examples of combat from the past fifty or sixty years. At a time when the Great War is receding into the annals of distant history, this elegiac and edifying novel has been released--a small, slim but powerful story of a young soldier, Josef Vinich, who hails from a disenfranchised and impoverished family in rural Austria-Hungary.

Josef was born in the rural mi...more
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...more
I'm not going to give much detail about this book, because I want readers to discover what it is for themselves. But briefly, it's the story of a young man's sojourn into the world before, during, and following World War I. That sounds innocuous, but it is so much more. There is love, loyalty, bravery, danger, spirits....and the book is less than 200 pages, so it packs a wallop! And, my family to this country from the Austria/Czechoslovakia region, so it was near and dear to my heart.

For a firs...more
The eastern European migrations to work in the mines in Pueblo, Colorado, took place in the late 1890s. This story begins in 1899 when Anna Vinich, a Slovak immigrant, takes her baby son, Jozef, and her nephew for a walk along the rail lines. Anna and the nephew are killed by an oncoming train as baby Jozef is saved, tossed to some boys, playing in water below the trestle. The sister-in-law, learning of her son's death, goes into labor prematurely, delivering a stillborn girl.
This tragedy begins...more
Mark R
Andrew Krivak's impressive debut novel is a coming-of-age story about young Jozef Vinich, whose family is forced to flee a Colorado mining town in the 1890s for its homeland of Austria-Hungary due to a series of tragic events. When World War I breaks out across Europe, Jozef joins the fight as a sharpshooter. The majority of the novel focuses on his experiences in the killing fields and trenches of the Great War. Along the way Jozef faces a desperate journey through the Italian Alps, epic duels...more
Chris Lake
This novel, which tells the tale of a young Czech who becomes a sharpshooter for the Astro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War is a wonderfully told tale. The writing style is similar to what you would find in a Hemingway or a Cormac McCarthy. The writing is sparse, but the story it tells is powerful. I don't really want to give away any details, other then to say that this is a fantastic book.
Tudor Ciocarlie
A story about the soul of Europe and the sadness, the cries, the hate, the wars and the sufferings that lie in the heart of it.
Steve Lindahl
The rhythm of Andrew Krivak's writing forces his readers to slow down. The Sojourn pulled me in and kept me turning the pages because its subject matter and setting are fascinating. But I had to work to read it. Here's an example of a typical sentence pulled from about halfway through the novel:

But among the Austrian and German troops we fell in with that autumn in Kobarid, we felt the camaraderie of skill and demeanor, and so began to believe again in the possibility of victory in that war, aft...more
First, let me say my rating reflects my enjoyment of the book, not the quality of the writing, for the quality is exceptionally rich. It is, though, a searing look at war, which was for me disturbing and unpleasant. The story line is interesting and unique, somewhat based on the author's own family background. Told in the first person, the narrator was born in Colorado, but , after a tragic accident, was taken by his father back to their native Slovakia to be raised in the household of the class...more
I received this book as a gift and really wanted to like it. It became clear quickly that the connotation of sojourn for me was far more positive than this interpretation. The story wends its way from Colorado to Central Europe during the turn of the 20th century and into World War I. I enjoyed some of the more mundane descriptions of life in the mountains and relationships between father, sons and brothers. War is never inspirational to me - the failure of people to learn from such events and t...more
Barksdale Penick
I recall looking at a piece of modern sculpture very much out of place on the Dartmouth campus, some mirrored pieces of wood lying scattered on the ground, and thinking I didn't get it. Then I read the title of the artwork, which was Fallen Sky, and then I saw that the mirrors were a bit like bits of sky fallen to the earth and I was able to glean some insight into the author's vision. That was the first moment I realized that a title can be a part of the work of art itself; that while art can e...more
"The Sojourn" is an example of an excellent story marred by less than excellent writing. The story about a man who is born and raised in the U.S. to Slav parents, returns to the homeland after a personal tragedy, and then goes on to fight for Austria-Hungary during World War I sounds like a great story to read about--and it is. The only problem is the writing in this book makes for a grueling read, and you might find yourself, like me, taking several months to finish a novel of a mere 191 pages....more
Paula Dembeck
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barbara Backus
Inspired by the life of Krivak’s grandfather during World War I, The Sojourn is the story of Jozef Vinich, who was uprooted from a 19th-century mining town in Colorado by a shocking family tragedy to return with his father to an impoverished shepherd’s life in rural Austria-Hungary. When World War I starts, Jozef joins his cousin and brother-in-arms as a sharpshooter on the southern front, where he must survive a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps and capture by a victorious enemy.

A gr...more
I am mystified that this novel made it onto my “to-be-read” list. There is nothing in the subject matter or style that appeals to me at all. Perhaps I brought insufficient energy to it. Maybe it suffered by following Isabel Wilkerson's compelling historical study, The Warmth of Other Suns. Unbroken may have ruined war stories for me for all time. Whatever the case, I had to force myself to grind through a few pages at a time, finding myself not caring what happened to characters that did not com...more
I don't know, I feel like I don't really have much to say about this except that for one reason or another it never quite got me engaged. It was one of those books that always felt like it was winding up for the story to really get going, right up until it was over, so it felt like lots of ideas or possibilities were introduced but not connected. And there's a narrative distance that lowered the tension so much - not to mention the poetic voice that felt so at odds with the material - that I gue...more
I loved the first chapter of this book. I thought it was beautifully written and I really looked forward to reading the rest of the book. Unforunately for me, I thought the entire tone of the book changed for the worse once the narrator changed. For much of the book, I kept waiting for something to happen. I got tired of page after page describing how clever the main character and his "brother" were as snipers. And I didn't find it believable that their father just happened to teach them every s...more
hmmm, i would give this an almost three stars really but i'll round up.

it started out and ended pretty strong but the middle, not so much. it took me a while to get used to the authors style- kind of a slavic Hemingway (each paragraph containing roughly one sentence.) The middle is some a little boring as it is mostly descriptions of battles and movement of troops but i'm sure that holds appeal for some. He captured the foreign-ness of the country, time, and war really well. I think his style i...more
I picked up this first novel from Krivak because I had already fallen in love with his spiritual memoir, A Long Retreat. The Sojourn did not disappoint.

A novel of stark and exacting beauty - not a book for everyone, since not all readers enjoy narratives this emotionally and intellectually demanding. I've only read a handful of war novels (and only Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front also dealt with WWI), but to me the details felt authentic. While the descriptions of warfare are bleak, th...more
Matthew Doucette
This book was amazing. I was handed it and i assumed it would be a war story. But it was so much more than that. It was a coming of age story. I don't want to divulge much information but it's a really good book. Its about a boy called Jozef and his years growing up with his dad and then how war effects him as a young man and then his experience in war.

YOu should totally read this book Ms. Moeller. Its super good.
This beautiful and deeply moving novel is a sojourn through tragedy and strife and war and redemption, all taking place in the first twenty years of a young man's life. The lyrical writing immediately sweeps you into the story, and I found myself unable to put this book down - wanting to finish, yet not wanting it to end. A Finalist for the 2011 National Book Award, I hope it wins. Enthralling and magnificent.
John Pappas
A debut novel, recipient of the Chautauqua Prize and National Book Award Finalist, this short 130pp tale was an intense and moving book. Very simply written with a memorial stark. Very humane treatment of the effects of war on the psyche; the ephemeral nature of family; and the process of growing into and then out of a world.
Colette Guerin
Interesting to read about a forgotten front of the war. I don't know that I would put in the league of "All Quiet on the Western Front," but it was a good read. The author was a little too in love with the comma. The Faulkner style of the never ending sentence is not my favorite.
Lee Bareford
Thanks to the Gug for recommending this one. I was blown away. This isn't a long book, but you'll feel like you've marched through the hills and aimed down the sights with the protagonists of the book in this WWI tale of love, loss, and the devastating folly of war.
This book reminded me a lot of Tinkers by Paul Harding in which men, regardless of politics, religion or borders try to make sense of their place in the world. Both books are beautifully written, this one in particular has long sentences that are poetic without making the overall text hard to read.
The Sojourn starts in Leadville, Colorado and Jozef is the lucky infant of immigrant Slovakian parents. After a tragic accident Jozef returns to the Carpathian Mountains with his father and settles in...more
An intriguing historical fiction that begins close to my heart -in the Sawatch and Sangre de Christo ranges in Colorado. That scene quickly dissipates as the main characters move back to the old country. It almost could have been completely etched from the novel with no impact. With a shepherd's upbringing, Jozef enters into WWI as a sharpshooter and eventually is taken as prisoner.

The plot was beautiful, the writing flawed but still poignant. The reader would have liked better connections, for...more
Liz Nutting
Years ago I taught a college-level religion course called "Death and Dying." On the first day of the course, I would start by asking each student to share why they were taking the class, which, after all, was not required by any department, although it was always, always full to overflowing. One year, a young man--tall, dark and very handsome and a tad bit older than the typical 18-21 year old college students--started to share his story. After high school, he had joined the Marines, where he wa...more
This book was the last one I would complete from my 2012 reading list. I purchased it once in the spring and misplaced it (I left it in a coffee shop or in the airport), and I picked it up again while on my honeymoon this summer. I think I was destined for this book. I was hungry for more stories from the homeland of my grandparents after reading The Tiger's Wife, and I got it with The Sojourn. In spite of very little dialog, the story moves quickly and sparingly, but beautifully, and has no nee...more
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Andrew Krivak is the author of The Sojourn, a novel set during WWI; A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life, a memoir about his eight years in the Jesuit Order; and the editor of The Letters of William Carlos Williams to Edgar Irving Williams, 1902-1912. The grandson of Slovak immigrants, he grew up in Pennsylvania, has lived in London, and has taught at Harvard, Boston College, and the Coll...more
More about Andrew Krivak...
A Long Retreat: In Search of a Religious Life The Letters of William Carlos Williams to Edgar Irving Williams, 1902-1912 Islands Sacred Adventure: Beginning Theological Study

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“The Northwestern Carpathians, in which I was raised, were a hard place, as unforgiving as the people who lived there, but the Alpine landscape into which Zlee and I were sent that early winter seemed a glimpse of what the surface of the earth looked and felt and acted like when there were no maps or borders, no rifles or artillery, no men or wars to claim possession of land, and snow and rock alone parried in a match of millennial slowness so that time meant nothing, and death meant nothing, for what life there was gave in to the forces of nature surrounding and accepted its fate to play what role was handed down in the sidereal march of seasons capable of crushing in an instant what armies might--millennia later--be foolish enough to assemble on it heights.

And yet there we were, ordered to march ourselves, for God, not nature, was with us now, and God would deliver us, in this world and next, when the time came for that.”
“Like a couple that communicates by intention nearly as much as by word, so in tune are they to each other and their surroundings.” 2 likes
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