The Signal Flame

A Novel

The Signal Flame

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.
  • Scribner | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501126376 | 
  • January 2017
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Signal Flame includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


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

1. When youn see more

About the Author

Andrew Krivak
Photograph by Dario Prager

Andrew Krivak

Andrew Krivák is the author of The Signal Flame and the National Book Award finalist, The Sojourn, which also won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Chautauqua Prize. He lives with his wife and three children in Somerville, Massachusetts.