The stunning second novel from National Book Award finalist Andrew Krivak - a heartbreaking, captivating story about a family awaiting the return of their youngest son from the Vietnam War.
In a small town in Pennsylvania's Endless Mountains Hannah and her son Bo mourn the loss of the family patriarch, Jozef Vinich. They were three generations under one roof. Three generations, but only one branch of a scraggy tree; they are a war-haunted family in a war-torn century. Having survived the trenches of World War I as an Austro-Hungarian conscript, Vinich journeyed to America and built a life for his family. His daughter married the Hungarian-born Bexhet Konar, who enlisted to fight with the Americans in the Second World War but brought disgrace on the family when he was imprisoned for desertion. He returned home to Pennsylvania a hollow man, only to be killed in a hunting accident on the family's land. Finally, in 1971, Hannah's prodigal younger son, Sam, was reported MIA in Vietnam.
And so there is only Bo, a quiet man full of conviction, a proud work ethic, and a firstborn's sense of duty. He is left to grieve but also to hope for reunion, to create a new life, to embrace the land and work its soil through the seasons. The Signal Flame is a stirring novel about generations of men and women and the events that define them, brothers who take different paths, the old European values yielding to new world ways, and the convalescence of memory and war.
Beginning shortly after Easter in 1972 and ending on Christmas Eve this ambitious novel beautifully evokes ordinary time, a period of living and working while waiting and watching and expecting. The Signal Flame is gorgeously written, honoring the cycles of earth and body, humming with blood and passion, and it confirms Andrew Krivak as a writer of extraordinary vision and power.
C H A P T E R
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A fire in the great stone fireplace was as constant in the house as the lengthening days when Easter was early and spring was late. But on the morning after his grandfather died, Bo Konar took the logs and the log rack in the living room out to the barn, swept the bricks clean of ash, and dusted the andirons so that they looked like thin faceless centaurs of black. Two days later, after supper, he and his mother, Hannah, greeted mourners at the door and led them from the foyer into the living room, where each knelt before the body of the man waked in a pine casket by the window, and said a prayer. Some lingered then in the kitchen and the wide hallway to talk about Jozef Vinich. How he had come to America after World War I with fifty dollars in his pocket, after the gold his father had left him paid for the train from Kassa to Hamburg and passage on the Mount Clay. How he had risen from yard worker to co-owner of the Endless Roughing Mill. How he had acquired and ...
Reading The Signal Flame is like being inside the eye of a hurricane. The story unfolds with relative calm, but death and devastation brim around the edges. It's only after reading the final page that one is aware of the emotional impact left in its wake. It's the kind of novel that gets its tenterhooks inside you and refuses to let go.
(Reviewed by Matt Grant).
Full Review (619 words).
In The Signal Flame, the Konar family grapples with the fact that Sam, the youngest son, is missing in action in Vietnam.
War, by its very nature, means that not all who leave to fight will return home. In addition to those who die in service to their country, conflicts yield prisoners of war (POWs) and soldiers missing in action (MIA) who remain unaccounted for after the hostilities end. In most cases, the fate of these missing men and women remains a mystery, leaving grieving families without the closure of knowing what happened to their loved ones.
After the Vietnam War, 2,646 American servicemen were reported missing. Since that time, 1,028 have been identified and repatriated. It is the task of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting...
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