An Afterlife, a debut novel, follows a young couple, Ilya and Ruby, who first meet in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the War. Both are lone survivors of their families as they travel to America to forge a future together. (Apprentice House, October 2018)
“An Afterlife is a totally surprising book, unforgettable in its depiction of the daily lives of holocaust survivors in postwar Germany. Ruby is a seamstress so talented that her sense of color, thread, and fabrics becomes a bridge to friendship with a German shopkeeper who shares her passion and quietly employs her. So many details linger within Bartkowski’s skillful telling: the dark bread, the small celebrations, the amazing images of young refugee mothers walking in town with their baby carriages, lover’s afternoon walks (back before curfew), are miracles upon miracles. The characters agonize between remembering and forgetting, but An Afterlife moves forward, and like all truly visionary books, re-defines its title. We read An Afterlife with an awareness of present streams of refugees, supported, resisted, misunderstood, and the repetition of old cycles adds to the depth of Bartkowski’s novel.” — Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Machine Dreams, Lark and Termite, and Quiet Dell
“Bartkowski delivers a novel that transcends the fiction genre. This work is as detailed and accurate (with brutal and miraculous turns) as the most searing historical documents, folded in a narrative as immediate and vivid as a poetic memoir. The book is written as it must have been lived, with an ear to the ground and an eye to the future. Its power is a testament to the tether and persistence of inherited trauma and its twin: the redemptive possibilities of telling the stories our forebears could not tell. As the title suggests, these characters live another life after the labor and death camps, after the Displaced Persons camps, after emigrating to the U.S.–this other life springs up on every page of this extraordinary novel, in full color, in season after season, in names and births and deaths and letters and twists and fabrics and factories and an unforgettable hope that trembles throughout this beautiful and necessary book.” — Brenda Shaughnessy, author of Our Andromeda
About the Author
Frances Bartkowski has published three books of literary criticism: Feminist Utopias; Travelers, Immigrants, Inmates; and Kissing Cousins, as well as essays and poetry. An Afterlife is her first novel. She teaches literature and culture at Rutgers University – Newark. She has participated in seminars at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been a visiting writer at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.