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2 Page Synopsis: Novak 105363

Posted: June 7th, 2012, 12:30 pm
by MFink
Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you.

Novak 105363 Outline

I should say my novel, Novak 105363, is a story about World War II, and that those numbers––105363––were the POW numbers assigned to JOHN NOVAK when he was shot down over Austria, captured, and tortured for eighteen months in one of the cruelest Stalags in Europe, and it is. Only, it’s not just a story about war.

Our narrator, MARIN, was born in the year of hair scrunchies and side ponytails. She grew up in a family unconnected to war, and she’s dealing with a new marriage, and the death of her brother, and what family actually means. Nevertheless, in the same breath with which she tells us her fears of motherhood, she also mourns the loss of John’s legacy. One thousand World War II veterans are currently dying every day, and while Marin may hate war, she finds she loves her soldiers.

In Book I, Marin transports us to John’s post-war home in Bayonne, New Jersey, and she introduces us to SIDNEY COLLINS, his childhood friend-turned-drunk Navy man with a huge heart, as well as ALICE CARMINE, the polished-perfect woman John came home for, EVEE SHERIDAN, the woman he comes to marry, and Evee’s two sisters, CELESTE and RITA. Through these character’s interactions, Bayonne, “the commuter town to Manhattan, just the other side of the Holland Tunnel, brimming with firefighters and policemen and construction workers––strong, hard-working men who took jobs in the Big Apple but couldn’t afford to live like Wall Street,” --comes alive. It’s the world Marin has grown up watching from the outside, visiting once or twice a year. The world she’s mostly kept at a careful distance.

Intertwined with newspaper articles, radio transmissions, Army mission reports, and fellow veterans’ recollections of Stalag XVII-B, Marin reconstructs the journey of a man through the uneven landscape of Hitler’s reign, to the world he returned to after liberation––the world to which Marin is eventually born, and in some ways, is ending. At the same time, Marin’s narrative is punctuated by another presence, one haunted by the crash of a B17 bomber, by the monotonous months in a prison camp, and by the horrors witnessed along a slow death march west. This voice, quiet at first, allows Marin to find a foothold. Then, in one of John’s nightmares, the sounds of propeller wings rip through the air, alarms ring out, John finds a chute packed on his back, he’s clipped in, and CHETT is screaming to jump. Jump, Novak! It’s April 11, 1943, and as we jump with John from a burning plane, the line between reality and memory is blurred. In Book II, we land in John’s past, in a tree, in Austria, and John tells us, “I’ll take it from here.”

The very thing Marin’s great-uncle tried to withhold from his family, is the truth Marin is confronted with in the second half of Novak. John introduces us to WESS MORGAN, his bombardier and Stalag combine partner, at the scene of their crew execution in the town center of Krems, Austria. Together, they tell Marin the story of their capture. They take her to the boxcar trains that transported them to interrogation rooms, and then out toward Mauthausen Concentration Camp, a stone quarry labor camp they would later find themselves returning to. They bring her to barracks 30A, inside Stalag XVII-B, and they show her how they survived by stealing wood off the walls of their shithouse, and how Morgan fashioned a radio from scraped water pipes and burn ointment. They tell her about rationing food, hopelessness, the Red Cross, and how much better off they were than the Russians.

Book II fills in the silences of Book I, the silences of a generation of men who sometimes refused to speak of their experiences, and sometimes were forbidden by the United States government to do so, as John was. When we first meet the young version of John Novak, he is cold. He is in love with a woman who believes in him when he can’t believe in himself, and therefore promises himself to another woman, Alice Carmine. He is haunted by five letters hidden under his mattress in his mother’s home, waiting to be delivered to wives and mothers and sisters of his dead crewmates. He is no one for anyone, until we come to the very end of Novak. Marin still cannot understand war, murder, or death; she cannot reconcile the black and white striped bodies she sees thrown into wheelbarrows, with the body of her brother as it seeps red ribbons over her hands. But she understands how these experiences become a part of a life. John begins to walk on April 8, 1945. He walks for 300 miles over the foothills of the Austrian Alps toward Braunau, the birthplace of Hitler himself, toward liberation. Then he walks toward France and Camp Lucky Strike, where he is told to keep his mouth shut. John walks on to a hospital bed in Florida, and then to Texas, where they hand him a wooden box full of honorable metals and promotion to Tech Sergeant. John laughs, throwing the box into his canvas, and keeps walking. Along the way, Marin comes to understand, John is walking home.

The story of Novak encompasses one man’s particular reality of war, but it resonates in Marin’s post September 11th world. Included in its pages are the universal ideas of loss, good and evil, guilt, love, and sacrifice. A mix between Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, Novak 105363 is a novel that crosses genres and appeals to romantics and history buffs alike.

Re: 2 Page Synopsis: Novak 105363

Posted: June 27th, 2012, 1:17 pm
by KyleS
Hey - So I absolutely love anything and everything WWII related. With my bias in mind, I think you have a potentially really compelling story to be told. While writing book I, I'd recommend focusing on making it as personal and compelling (without being too depressing, as some returning-from-war books have a tendency to be) to both Marin and Novak. Don't worry so much about leaving things for book II while writing book I, as you want book I to feel like more than just setup (I'm not saying, though, that it came across that way - just something to keep in mind while writing). Also, I really did like the way that book I sounds like it will end - leaving the reader in anticipation of what's to come next. In general, it sounds like you've thought alot about not just making this a book about war, but making it personal for both Marin and Novak - which I like. Good luck!