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The Afterlife of Stars Hardcover – January 10, 2017
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"Devastating yet unnervingly funny....it's not every writer who can render a scene like this with such verisimilitude so many years after the fact....What is clear--and unquestionably lucky for us--is that Kertes's memories survived his own family's flight to Canada and have found expression in this inspired and deeply affecting novel. 'I'm not asking for a story for the ages,' Robert tells his Aunt Hermina. 'I'm asking what happened to you.' Kertes has given us both."
―Julie Orringer, New York Times Book Review
"The Afterlife of Stars is Joseph Kertes's masterpiece. Robert Beck, the young narrator, is absolutely captivating (and very funny!) as he takes us along on his terrifying journey."
―Miriam Toews, two-time Giller Prize finalist for All My Puny Sorrows and A Complicated Kindness
"The Afterlife of Stars moved me more than any other novel I've read in recent memory. It hypnotizes. It delights. It shines on every page with a quiet, implacable, blanketing beauty-like a snowfall. Beyond all else, The Afterlife of Stars reaches into your chest and takes hold of your heart and does not let go, not even after the last page is turned. The Afterlife of Stars keeps shining on. What an exquisite novel."―Tim O'Brien, National Book Award-winning author of The Things They Carried
"The Afterlife of Stars is tender in its evocation of fierceness and wrenching in its rendering of two brothers' hunger to penetrate both the wonders and the awful secrets of a world that always seems just out of reach. It's memorably sad and surprisingly funny on the elusiveness of home and the intensity of family bonds."
―Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron
"We meet the Beck brothers at the very moment history lays its claim on them. Their bond is sure to become one of literature's great and sustaining relationships. Joseph Kertes writes with tremendous love for the idiosyncratic and passionate loyalties of family. With masterly concision, he expresses the trauma of an era. This is a book of remarkable scope and depth; unforgettable and deeply moving."―Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces
"The Afterlife of Stars blazes with every single good thing that a work of fiction ever does or could do. It is brilliant. Radiant."―Richard Bausch, PEN/Malamud Award-winning author of Peace
"Agony, humor, and a boy's bewilderment and wonder coalesce in this glittering novel. Joseph Kertes evokes a vanishing culture with poignancy and love. His boy-narrator is a marvelous creation."
―D. M. Thomas, Man Booker Prize finalist for The White Hotel
"The Afterlife of Stars is a great adventure story, at once fantastical and true. And the inimitable Beck brothers allow us to see past the horrors of the world with a childlike precocity."―David Bezmozgis, Two-time Giller Prize finalist for The Betrayers and The Free World
"Exquisitely moving . . . Kertes is a natural storyteller who creates vivid characters that resonate on the page."―Elaine Margolin, Jerusalem Post
"A beautifully written story of brotherly love, family, and the intersection of history in the 20th century."
―Andrea Kempf, Library Journal (Starred Review)
About the Author
Joseph Kertes was born in Hungary but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956. He studied English at York University and the University of Toronto. His novel Gratitude won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction. Kertes founded Humber College's distinguished creative writing and comedy programs. He is currently Humber's dean of creative and performing arts.
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This is a many faceted jewel of a book—intriguing, suspenseful, funny, sad. The Beck family is fleeing the Russian take over of Hungary after having endured and barely survived the previous Nazi occupation. The voice of the narrator, Robert Beck (9.8 years old) is compelling in its many registers: serious, wondering, comical, impassioned, heartbroken. I loved this character: his admiring but sceptical attitude towards his older brother (who often seems to eclipse him), his own strong emotions, his growing wisdom, his sense of humour. His voice is pitched perfectly to tell his story in an intimate way that allows the reader, without any “adult” interference, to gradually come to know Robert and his brilliant, reckless, uncompromising older brother, Attlia, and other members of the Beck family. Robert leaves us to gather our own conclusions and impressions as he and his brother pour out all their questions and try out their own remarkable insights about life in general and about the turbulent history and current circumstances of their family.