Looking For Przybylski



It’s the journey, not the destination that counts, and K. C. Frederick’s Looking for Przybylski gives voice to many journeys under the guise of a road-trip from Detroit to Los Angeles. Ziggy Czarnecki’s life has run the gamut of car manufacturing, numbers running, success and abject failure. But now his friends are reaching the ends of their journeys and mortality looms. Perhaps Ziggy’s searching for meaning in his life when he sets off on a Greyhound Bus to look for his old “friend” Przybylski, but what Ziggy finds are many lives, intersecting, separating, weaving their separate paths across the land and across his dreams.

Moving smoothly between comedy, pathos, mystery and spirituality, the author takes his readers on a journey across America—a trip I’d love to take. Towns and landscapes change. The vast emptiness of desert rings with echoes of the end of life. Scents of kielbasa are replaced by car exhaust, a wild western barbeque, and eventually, the ocean’s salt. Strangers become temporary friends. Forgotten acquaintances become confessors. Tales half-told remain incomplete as travelers leave the bus. And Przybyski remains a mystery, the goal of a quest that’s always more than it seems.

Ziggy's steadfast wife provides a rock of constancy in the background of this tale as faith and memories shift and relationships slide. The destination might be an answer, a reason or a place. But the journey’s filled with memorable characters, evocative scenery, humor, life and hope. The dialog’s utterly convincing. Descriptions are given in the pitch-perfect voice of a fellow traveler. And the journey’s a wonderful read.  
Sheila Deeth, Goodreads

A man in the twilight of his life goes on a road trip to reconcile his past in the latest from Detroit-born Frederick (After Lyletown). Back in the 1950s, Ziggy Czarnecki was a major player in the Motor City underworld: running numbers, trading favors, throwing parties even the mayor knew about. But now it's the mid-1970s, Detroit is a washed-up shell of its former self, and so is Ziggy. His illegal racket is long since broken up, and he thinks an undertaker named Przybylski is to blame. When Ziggy learns his nemesis now lives in California, he decides to find out whether he did indeed rat him out all those years ago. Along the way, Ziggy meets an aspiring comedian, catches up with a former priest and his earthy girlfriend, and tries to mend fences with his daughter-in-law, all of whom help him on his quixotic quest to find Przybylski. 

VERDICT: Filled with poignant humor and a memorable cast of characters, Frederick's autumnal novel will remind readers of John Updike's "Rabbit Angstrom" quartet.- Library Journal

Though he is perhaps best known for his novels depicting life in the Soviet Union, Frederick (Lyletown) has lately begun to explore the lives of Eastern Europeans in the U.S. and to mine the tension of divided loyalties and unexpected consequences. In his new novel he hones in on Ziggy Czarnecki, a one-time “numbers kingpin” thinking about mortality. A chance remark, suggesting that Ziggy’s long-ago nemesis, the undertaker Przybylski, may have been responsible for the raid that transformed Ziggy from successful to struggling forces him to re-evaluate “Rule Number One: don’t ever look back.” Propelled by an opaque impulse, Ziggy boards a Greyhound in blighted Detroit, where he lives, headed for California, where Przybylski lives. Traveling west, Ziggy meets people whose stories help him make sense of his past. In L.A., he reconnects with a nearly forgotten friend, and with his own son, who he hasn’t seen in four years. Soon enough, he can hardly remember what it was he wanted to see Przybylski about. Ziggy’s quest is related without sentiment, and while its scope is hardly epic, it resonates as a rumination on the trials and triumphs of a newly examined life.  Publishers Weekly

Ziggy Czarnecki, a former numbers runner from Detroit, is on a quest to find Przybylski, a former adversary who he believes may have ratted him out years before.

 Ziggy’s life is not a happy one, for he’s done time for his crimes and is nostalgic for the “old” Detroit, the one where, during World War II, people worked round-the-clock turning out tanks for a cause everyone believed in. After the war, they were flush with money and willing to leverage it through playing the numbers, and Ziggy was more than happy to help. But now, in the 1970s, Ziggy wants some definitive answers, and he feels Przybylski, a former undertaker, is the one who can provide them. Unfortunately, all Ziggy knows is that Przybylski has fled the city and is living somewhere in southern California, so he undertakes a cross-country trip to catch up with his old nemesis. All he wants is to confront Przybylski and ask him one simple question: “Did you turn me in?” On his cross-country odyssey, Ziggy meets a microcosm of American goofballs, including Lennie, heading to LA to become a standup comedian and using Ziggy as a captive audience for some of his bad jokes, and Sharlene, who packs her own pool cue and is given to double-entendres. Ziggy finally makes it to LA, where at first he stays with Ted, a former priest from his parish in Detroit who’s now having troubles with his girlfriend. Reluctantly, Ziggy also spends some time with his son, Charlie, a dentist, and discovers his daughter-in-law, Gloria, is having an affair....[The ending provides].. Ziggy some of the answers he’s seeking.

Frederick's woebegone outsiders are reminiscent of Elmore Leonard’s tough-tender guys and dolls, not a bad literary role model.  Kirkus Reviews

[Note: In deference to the reader, I've left out the part of the sentence in which the reviewer inexplicably reveals some spoilers.]