[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

ย 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 ย 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.

  • I like this cover. And it sounds pretty exciting and heartbreaking too. One day I shall read it. I think ๐Ÿ˜€ You make it sound all kinds of awesome. <3 Thank you for sharing about it Joy ๐Ÿ™‚ You are the best.

    • Oh! And I am so glad you enjoyed this book, but sorry you didn’t fully love it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Gore mixed with humour and strange behaviour? Sounds like my type of book! I’ve never heard of it before. But, it is going on my to read pile! Thank you for another great review Joy! :] I should really stop reading your reviews, since you always make me want to read these books, which just makes my to read list grow! ๐Ÿ˜›

  • It’s hard to believe that the boys can be so detached to their surroundings, but perhaps the author is trying to highlight a theme of human nature and how in the midst of problems that do not affect the individual, they are unable to see how it affects others. The use of children to highlight still just shows how self-centred humans can be even in times of great strife.

    • True enough. It’s just so odd – to be surrounded by violence and war and remained detached. I’ve never read such an oddball of a book.

  • It’s interesting to have so many feelings in this book. I didn’t know about it but maybe one day! thank you for the review!

  • Definitely sounds like an emotional read for sure. Wonderful review!!

  • I so love your reviews, I hope I sound half as smart as you do.

  • I agree, this isn’t something I probably would have found on my own or maybe even considered before reading your review but you definitely have me curious. This sounds intriguing and I loved your review. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Makes me wonder, does Robert have a disability or is he detached just as a coping mechanism. I burst out laughing at My Alabaster Darling though. It sounds like a quick little read, even though it touches on everything from mindless banter to horrifying scenarios, it really doesn’t sound all that heavy. Reminds me a little of Silver People, the verse book about the slaves of the Panama Canal.
    Awesome review Joy <3

    • It’s so weird! And I can understand if Atilla is a doting older sister, but he’s not. He’s a teenager himself not much older than Robert. Lol.

  • Well, honest and heartbreaking are right up my alley, and glad to hear you enjoyed

  • This sounds so intriguing! I never would have stumbled across this title if not for you! I will definitely be adding this to my TBR mountain. Also, I loved the way you structured your review.

    • Thanks, Ellen. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope you’ll find its oddity endearing. Lol.

  • You always review books that wouldn’t normally cross my to-read pile in a million years. Thanks for helping to expand my bloggy horizons! It’s great that you were able to draw so much inspiration from a story that was, for the most part, hopeless. You sure know how to pick ’em!

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads.

    • Ack. I think I need to find something a bit peppier than the ones I’ve been reading. A couple more of these and I would most likely take to drinking in the afternoon. Lol.

  • Woah, this book scales between gory limbs and the sweetness of a child, it sounds completely emotional and like it would tear your heart out. Great review Joy!

    • It was a bit weird. I had a hard time taking these kids seriously, to be honest. Thanks, Jeann. ๐Ÿ™‚