The Afterlife of Stars (Hardcover)
Little, Brown and Company, 9780316308113, 256pp.
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (1/9/2017)
"The Afterlife of Stars moved me more than any other novel I've read in recent memory." --Tim O'Brien
New York Times Book Review: Editors' Choice
"10 New Books We Recommend This Week" --New York Times Book Review
A Brother's Love is Forever
As Russian tanks roll through the cobblestone streets of Budapest and shots ring out, young Robert and Attila Beck, inseparable brothers, peer from the boot of a toppled statue of Stalin at the first grisly signs of revolution. The year is 1956. That October day, Russian soldiers will storm their family home, prompting the boys' hurried escape from the city with their parents, grandmother, and two cousins. Not all will survive. Their immediate destination is Paris, and the town house of Hermina, their great-aunt, once a renowned opera singer, now a recluse who wears long gloves to preserve her dignity against a past scarred by an unspeakable violence.
Along the way, these two brothers encounter mysterious fellow travelers, witness the bewildering sights of a nation in transition, and grapple with rivalry and loss, while never losing their capacity for joy or their appreciation of humor, and each other, as they stare down the unaccountable and the absurd. Robert, the younger, idolizes the fiery Attila, whose growing edge of anger and rebellion threatens to endanger them both. As exiles in Paris, they seek adventure and whatever semblance of home they might find, from the unfamiliar streets to the labyrinthine sewers beneath. When the duo uncovers a long-held family secret involving a double agent and a daring Holocaust rescue, this novel hurtles toward its cataclysmic conclusion. A fleeting decision by Attila has consequences that will last a lifetime, and the bond that has proved unbreakable may be the brothers' undoing.
With dazzling storytelling and a firm belief in the power of humor in the face of turmoil, Joseph Kertes has crafted a fierce saga of identity and love that resonates through its final page. The Afterlife of Stars is not only a stirring account of one displaced family's possibilities for salvation, but also an extraordinary tale of the singular and enduring ties of brotherhood.
About the Author
Praise For The Afterlife of Stars…
—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)
"Kertes, who himself escaped Hungary after the 1956 revolution, delivers a fastpaced and taut narrative that captures how inscrutable the world's cruelties can be to the children who witness them. Stirring and haunting, The Afterlife of Stars memorably shows how the bonds of brotherhood stay strong in a crisis."
—Bridget Thoreson, Booklist (Starred Review)
"[A] fervent novel. Kertes (Gratitude, 2009), winner of the National Jewish Book Award, begins his newest work in his own native Budapest.... [protagonists] Robert and Attila are a winning pair of guides....Kertes' voice is a lyrical one, and his work is frequently moving."
"Slender yet consequential...Part of what makes the book so compelling is its sympathetic portrayal of political refugees at a time when they are frequently misunderstood at best, and demonized at worst....But the beating heart of this book is the relationship between [protagonists] Robert and Attila, a remarkable pair of brothers whose bond goes beyond affection, beyond shared history, beyond blood. They are two young men who, once met, you'll never forget."
—Thane Tierney, Bookpage