A meandering, affecting tale of a refugee’s plight.

Full Circle


Vitovec’s debut novel charts a Czech man’s life from his youth under Nazi occupation and communism through his adulthood in exile. 

Following the 1938 Munich Agreement, Nazi Germany annexed parts of the two-decades-old sovereign republic of Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia—which had not participated in the agreement—was then subjected to division and occupation for the duration of World War II. Jan Neuman experiences the occupation as a young boy, witnessing the humiliation of his father and other Czechoslovakian patriots, as well as the persecution and deportation of his Jewish neighbors. The use of one family to represent the massacred Czech Jewish community and one to represent the Nazi-sympathetic ethnic-German community, is a bit narrowly focused, but it allows Vitovec to cultivate his characters. Neuman’s family and community are elated when their nation is liberated at the end of the war, but just a few short years later, a communist coup returns the country to authoritarianism. After Neuman’s newspaper drawings run afoul of state censors, he experiences repression firsthand. He and his friends flee into the American zone of occupied Germany, hoping to join a rumored Czech resistance legion, only to find themselves interred in a Displaced Persons camp. Escaping these confines, the young men wander through Europe as stateless refugees. An older Czech man describes the situation when Neuman arrives in Paris: “Poles, Arabs, beggars. Street people. And now Czechs. Living like animals. Like dogs out in the alley, sleeping on trash and eating garbage.” Eventually, Neuman makes his way to the United States, where he tumbles into a marriage and career in the Air Force, without ever quite finding a home. Later in the novel, Vitovec introduces a forced—yet still moving—star-crossed love story and a convoluted account of revenge against a former Nazi. At 79 chapters, the book is overpacked, seeking to provide an entire fictional biography. Despite these issues, it offers a powerful picture of a refugee’s struggle—a timely subject.

A meandering, affecting tale of a refugee’s plight. 

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-59431-5

Page Count: 572

Publisher: CzechMate

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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