[462]: The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes

DSC_0706GOODREADS SUMMARY | Penguin Canada | Paperback, 288 pages | Publication Date: September 9th, 2014 | Historical Fiction | Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


 Short and sweet, this is the story of a couple of brothers who found themselves fleeing the Russian occupied Hungary. They trudged through minefields along with their family to get to the Austrian border. They planned to head to Paris, where a relative awaits them. Through equal parts humour, horror, and refreshing wonder, the brothers would discover the importance of home as they struggle to accept immeasurable losses brought on by the war.

Incongruous humour.

For some reason, I can’t seem to move away from books set at a time of great strife. There is something about it that draws me in, and if I have to look closely, I think it has to do with curiosity, mostly; and wonder  about how anyone can find hope, or would dare to dream when the world around them is literally in pieces. Though in Attila and Robert’s case, that may be easier to imagine. The boys talk about the most random things: the punitive quality of sperm as opposed to the bright, angry colour of blood. Especially when you consider that both fluid are equally important in the creation and sustenance of life. They talk about evolution; why God created things with an alarming, concise function. All the while, they are being showered by blood and falling limbs due to the land mines they were on. They witnessed their cousin gave birth on the grass and lose her life. Through these horrors, they never did show fear that readers would wonder exactly if they even have hearts, or if they simply were too young to realize the nightmare of their situations.

Sweet as candy.

Robert, the youngest, is made out to be someone effeminate instead of a prepubescent boy who fantasizes about what a girl’s lips would taste like. They treat him like a precious doll, and refer to him in the weirdest, sweetest endearment meant for a precious, little girl. Endearments such as: my one true love, my ever precious love, and my alabaster darling. These are just from his older brother. And considering that this book opened up as Robert and his grandma witnessed the hanging of 8 soldiers, it is of questionable wonder why the author would make Robert so viscerally detached from the nightmares around him.

The ramblings of a lost child?

I often got lost in the haze of Atilla’s babbles. He has an unending curiosity about the world around him. His theories and hypothesis about God and Science made me think, but it was as if the war, the deaths, the minefield were of no consequence to him.

In finem.

Funny, heartbreaking, and refreshingly honest, The Afterlife of Stars managed to inspire when there’s very little of hope to speak of, and if you wouldn’t mind reading about that kind of optimism, this would be the kind of novel to savour with a little bit of tolerance.