The Signal Flame
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.
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Reading Group Guide
In their small town in northeastern Pennsylvania, Hannah Konar and her son Bo mourn the passing of patriarch Jozef Vinich. They were three generations under one roof, a family begun in America after the ravages of World War I in Europe, with deep roots in the community—Bo runs the local mill as his grandfather once did. But they are only one branch of an uncertain tree, war having left its mark on the family several times. Memory weighs heavily on Hannah and Bo, who try to lose themselves in the rhythms of work and caring for the land as they await news of prodigal son Sam, Bo’s brother, missing in action in Vietnam. Sam’s missing status has serious implications outside the family, and eventually Bo and Hannah are called upon not only to reckon with the past but also to find a way beyond it. An evocative portrait of how past generations inform the present and how resilience and faith can withstand great loss, The Signal Flame is a gorgeous tale of how time passes and shapes us.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
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