cover image Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father

Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father

Joseph Hurka. Pushcart Press, $24.5 (201pp) ISBN 978-1-888889-25-3

In 1991, Hurka traveled to Czechoslovakia with a couple of goals in mind: visit his aunt and learn about what happened to his father's native country and his father during the years of Communist rule. The result is a poignant memoir that intersperses the gripping story of his family's history and his father's anti-Communist fight with more leisurely descriptions of his own visit to Prague. As Hurka visits the Czech capital, he provides a welcome travelogue to a beautiful city that was just emerging from its gray Communist past and being discovered as a tourist destination. The passages on 1991 Czechoslovakia serve as breathers from the drama of this nonfiction thriller. Soon after the Communist takeover in the late 1940s, his father joined the Resistance. With loving prose, Hurka, who teaches at Tufts University, depicts his father's courageous struggle to ferry other anti-Communists into Germany and his time in jail after the Czech authorities caught him. What emerges in addition to Hurka's respect for his father are the difficult choices that Communism forced onto individuals and the dignity that was still possible. For a while after escaping from Czechoslovakia in the early '50s, Hurka's father lived in England and worked as a spy for the U.S. government, his family unaware of his whereabouts. In this era of memoirs that trace family dysfunction and the wounds children suffered at the hands of their parents, Hurka's tribute to his father is a welcome change. This fine memoir is the winner of Pushcart's 19th annual Editors' Book Award (nominated by Andre Dubus). Illus. (May)