Finding Home (Hungary, 1945)
by Dean Cycon
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Pub Date 13 Jun 2023 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2023
During her nine months in Auschwitz, eighteen-year-old Eva Fleiss clung to sanity by playing piano on imaginary keyboards. After liberation, Eva and the five surviving Jews of Laszlo, Hungary, journey home, seeking to restart their lives.
Yet the town that deported them is not ready to embrace their return. Their former neighbors and friends resist relinquishing their newfound status and property. While Eva and the others search for a home that may no longer exist and deal with the traumas of war and loss, their neighbors struggle with their roles as perpetrators, enablers, and bystanders during the Holocaust.
Longing for connection to her old life, Eva agrees to clean her former home, now
the mayor’s home, in return for practice time on her piano. As her profound experiences allow her to access music at a depth she didn’t know existed, Eva’s performances begin to affect those around her—with unexpected consequences.
A Note From the Publisher
A Reader's and Discussion Guide will be available on the author's website at the time of publication. The author is donating all royalties to support Holocaust survivors.
FINDING HOME is a poetic, sweeping, and transportive story of Jewish returnees seeking to rebuild their lives after the war. In a world where prejudice and greed haven’t ceased, and where displacement continues long after Liberation, Cycon gives us a powerful and emotional read, with faith, music, and beauty central to the search for home.
--Jennifer Rosner, award-winning author of The Yellow Bird Sings and Once We
The image of Eva Fleiss playing imaginary keys at Auschwitz to contain the madness that surrounds her is the epicenter of this beautiful novel. Like Ulysses returning to Ithaca, she will face a variety of tests that will define, for her and for us, the meaning of 'home' in a disrupted world. A powerful debut!
--Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor at Amherst College and editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories
In his debut novel, FINDING HOME, Dean Cycon delves deeply into the seldom-explored story of Jewish life after the Holocaust. As survivors return home to the ruins of their former lives, they must rely on the restorative powers of hope, courage and art, as they work to heal their souls and repair the world. Cycon tells a tale that must be told with great passion and historical dedication.
--David R. Gillham, NY Times Bestselling Author of City of Women
FINDING HOME by Dean Cycon is a rollercoaster ride of deep emotions as six Holocaust survivors - five men and a teenage girl - are returned to their home town in Hungary directly after the war. The anger and resentment from the townspeople who had taken over all of the Jewish houses and businesses, is palpable and disturbing. This is a truth-telling historical novel at its best, where the author has not flinched, and the reader cannot put the book down.
--Jane Yolen, author of more than 400 books including the Holocaust novels The Devil's Arithmetic, Mapping the Bones, and Briar Rose. Her book Kaddish won the Sophie Brodie medal in 2022, the same year she won Sydney Taylor Lifetime Award.
FINDING HOME examines the plight of Jews returning to their homes in Hungary after the end of World War II -- their relations with the post-war gentile community, the complexity of the emotions and issues involved, and the search for hope among ruins. I cared deeply about these characters, particularly the ambitious and strong-willed musician at the book's center, and my eyes filled with tears -- not just of sadness, but of love -- many times. I loved this novel, and recommend it highly.
--Mitchell James Kaplan, author of Rhapsody, Into the Unbounded Night and By Fire, By Water
A heart-wrenching story of Auschwitz survivors longing for home, who are forced to create the fabric of new lives woven from brittle threads of suffering, continued loss and fear, and the hope that acceptance and the power of music might heal them in the end.
--Karla M. Jay, author of The Puppet Maker’s Daughter
Dean Cycon brilliantly depicts post-World War II Budapest in his debut novel. Through the careful and documentary-like depiction of contemporary Hungarian musical life, we can gain an insight into the forgotten world of the Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. Heroes, victims, criminals: the author captures the potential for music to be a transcendent force for good in this sad but ultimately uplifting tale.
--Peter Barsony, Professor, Liszt Academy of Music, Budapest, Hungary and University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria
It is often said that it is difficult to convey the feelings and emotions of music in a novel. In his debut, Dean Cycon has done that admirably. His protagonist tries to use music to heal both her own trauma from the war, as well as that of other survivors. She further attempts to harness the power of music as a transcendent force to combat hatred, with heart-rending results. FINDING HOME is a sobering yet beautiful exploration in which Cycon speaks with a strong, literate and powerful new voice.
--Howard Jay Smith, author of Meeting Mozart and Beethoven in Love, Opus 139
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
Finding Home can be both literally and figuratively speaking understood. Both nuances equally essential for the well being of any person. This novel lets out a flow of conflicting feelings, all powerful, disturbing, angering, distressing, though showing a lot of strengths in human beings. Unfortunately, strengths are not always to be taken positively... This novel illustrates a period not so much written about: what happened to Jewish people when they returned home? A home, confiscated by the Germans, sold a penny a piece. Did they get it back? Not so easy, new laws, old laws not rewritten yet... However, the most overpowering concept is the fact that these rescapees are mostly not accepted, either overtly or not so. This novel also strongly illustrates the overwhelming feeling of guilt: the trainmaster, for instance, could not refuse the deportation trains, how could he ? Fear over himself, his family, he had to obey; others, bystanders, also scared, how can one judge them (plenty enough to bear judgement on!)? Seeing these Jewish people coming back revived or alighted their guilt. Some still not daring help the newly come back...
I was aghast , distressed at the ominous and prevalent antisemitism still existing after the war, I was aghast and distressed at what this novel showed me. Extremely well written, with music underlying every word, memory, hope. A unique experience in human history. A must read, definitely! Highly recommended!
I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from NetGalley and I am leaving voluntarily an honest review.
I started this novel after finishing a book that took place during ww2 at Auschwitz and wow it was the perfect timing. The authors note and books dedication really helped prepare me for the emotions I would go through while reading Finding Home. I’ve always felt like many ww2 novels gloss over the after war period and in Finding Home the opposite is dug into. I felt immense sadness and rage so many times while reading through each characters parts of the story. Though the story touched on many awful aspects of the post war era the author did a fantastic job building relatable characters while also highlighting that life didn’t just go back to normal. Thank you so much for writing this.
Finding Home (Hungary, 1945) by Dean Cycon is one of the most heart shattering stories of Auschwitz survival I have read this year...and I have read a lot. What sets this apart is the little-discussed trauma experienced by survivals upon their return home...or at least where they used to call home.
After nine hellish months in Auschwitz upon liberation in 1945, Eva was held in a displacement center for three months. She was desperate to get home to Laszlo, Hungary along with the other five survivors from three hundred. Three days aboard one of the Special Trains and they were finally there...but were heartbroken to find that they had nothing left. A new family lived in Eva's house. Businesses had been snatched away from Jews including the baker's. New rules were created excluding them. Eva and the other survivors were shunned even though they had just survived unfathomable horrors. And those few who had compassion were ostracized if they dared to show it. People were forced into doing the impossible as their own families' lives were in danger.
At Aushwitz, Eva clung to her passion as a pianist. She survived by losing herself in the act of playing wonderful pieces with her hands on an imaginary keyboard. She was able to forget the horrors for a moment. After liberation, she went through several obstacles to find a keyboard and enjoy music. She found a different home of sorts. The relationships throughout were crucial to hold people together and some were moving and precious.
If you seek a very original Historical Fiction, this should be it. It's harrowing, painfully sad yet full of determination and hope. The title could not be more apt. Be sure to read the author's thoughtful acknowledgements and inspiration in the back. His words are magic and his insight is incredible.
My sincere thank you to Koehler Books and NetGalley for the honour of reading this beautiful, beautiful story.