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Joseph Hurka, . . St. Martin's/Dunne, $23.95 (194pp) ISBN 978-0-312-35990-4

A 73-year-old translator of Czech and German living in Cambridge, Mass., in early September 2001, Jiri Posselt is trying to recover after a series of strokes six months before. As part of the therapy to sharpen his memory, Jiri fills notebooks with flashbacks from his past, focusing on the 1942 Lidice massacre, which claimed the lives of his family along with those of their neighbors in reprisal for the Resistance killing of SS General Heydrich. Jiri and his wife, Anna, have befriended their neighbor Tika LaFond, a wide-eyed photography student with a big heart and a loose grasp of world history ("Why did the Nazis do it?" she asks) who mourns her parents' breakup and her tennis ace father's subsequent death in a car crash. As Jiri pieces together his painful past and Tika frets over her roommate's affair with a married man, a murderer stalks Tika. Although Tika is an anemic character compared to Jiri, and Hurka's (Fields of Light ) motives for setting this novel on the eve of 9/11 are confounding (the timing also adds awkward symbolic weight to a bevy of plot elements), the novel offers a refreshing perspective on aging, identity and intergenerational bonds. (May)