Like the Appearance of Horses

Bellevue Literary. May 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781954276130. $28.99. F
This haunting novel from Krivak (The Bear) leaves the reader with a visceral experience of little-told history, sometimes alluded to, but seldom encountered. Bexhet (Becks) Konar is a half Roma boy fleeing from fascist death squads in Hungary. He arrives in America seeking refuge with Joseph Vinich, who saved his mother from death during World War I. Becks marries Vinich’s daughter before going off to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, in the ensuing chaos becoming a partisan highly skilled at killing Arrow Cross fascists. After the war he is imprisoned for desertion but is finally released, only to die in a tragic accident. One of Becks’s sons then goes to Vietnam and one of his grandsons to Afghanistan. Each section of the novel focuses on a separate generation of the family descendants engaging in the conflicts that defined them. Beck’s son Sam’s experience as a POW in Vietnam and his heroin addiction is particularly arresting.
VERDICT This intensely readable whopper of a book provides a nuanced perspective on the human struggle to survive war through the lens of Hungary and the Roma people. The mystical connection to family and nature across space and time in the form of a bear provides a special twist. Highly recommended.
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