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From Barnes & NobleDiscover Great New Writers
With unforced elegance, this novel renders the life of an Austrian immigrant who abandons his impoverished life in Colorado for the World War I killing fields of Europe.
"That's how things were back then," Ondrej Vinich liked to say when he'd been drinking. Back then, he maintained, as the 1800s slipped into the 1900s, when Slavs moved to America they simply exchanged one poor village for another. But like so many others, the promise of a future without hardship and poverty draw him and his wife, Anna, and their young son, Jozef, to a small mining town in Colorado. Though their lives are limned by a harsh geography and uncertain weather, they manage to settle into a place that is, if not what they'd dreamed of, still better than what they had left. For a brief moment, they find some kind of promise and hope in this new country until an unexpected and horrifying tragedy occurs and Vinich has no choice but to return with his son to the grueling shepherd's life in Austria-Hungary. As Jozef grows older, day after uneventful day passes until 1914 when all talk in the village turns to the festering world conflict. By 1916, with his country engulfed in the Great War, he joins the army, where he is quickly chosen to train as a sharpshooter — a sniper — not only for his marksmanship skills but also for his ability to endure hardship to an extent that other men cannot bear. Surviving brutal trench warfare, paralyzing cold, and dangerous mountain journeys, Jozef is captured, then held prisoner by a victorious enemy as he battles a compromised past and struggles to find honor and purpose in a life of his own.