One summer afternoon in northern England in 1946, when Ann Colley was a child, she met a man from Czechoslovakia named Dr. Novak. This encounter launched her lifelong fascination with Central and Eastern Europe, one that resulted in her spending two years, in 1995 and 2000, teaching at universities in Poland and Ukraine. In The Odyssey and Dr. Novak, Colley records personal experiences, interactions with colleagues, and descriptions of the landscape, creating a composite portrait of these countries at a time when each is struggling to chart its course after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. She recalls moments that are disturbing, absurd, discordant, frustrating, humorous, and endearing – a missing parrot flying through the window, a robber on a train threatening her life, clouds of smoke from Chernobyl hanging over Kiev. Colley’s journey ends with her return to the figure of Dr. Novak when she searches in the archives of the Harvard Divinity School Library for letters sent from Prague in 1945 – letters which, just like her memoir, speak of a past that pursues the present.