Review of COWBOY FROM PRAGUE–Kirkus Reviews
COWBOY FROM PRAGUE
Writer and lecturer Heller’s fifth memoir explores the immigrant experience and the reconciliation of identity, family history, and ambitions for a better future.
In 1948, the author, along with his parents, escaped their native Czechoslovakia to come to the United States via a refugee camp in Germany; they’d lost the rest of their family during the Holocaust. Heller arrived in New York’s Long Island at the age of 12 with barely any knowledge of English and an interrupted education. His father told him that in their adopted country, “You’re going to be thrown into the river and will have to swim in order to survive.” The author did just that, quickly learning the language and excelling in school and, in particular, sports. Heller’s memoir follows his early education and college years closely as well as his early days as an engineer working toward a doctorate; it also details his relationship with his wife, Sue, and the birth of their son, David, recalling amusing, difficult, and thought-provoking anecdotes from a life well lived. Some chapters focus on the sports that Heller loved—such as skiing, golf, and baseball and their impact on his life—a little too closely, but every tale effectively aims to give readers an understanding of his journey from Holocaust survivor to wealthy American businessperson. The passages in which Heller focuses on understanding his own identity and connecting with his Jewish heritage despite not being religious are among the most compelling, as in passages about his family’s background, such as how he had to hide on a family farm while his father fought in the armed forces and his mother was forced to work in a labor camp. Heller writes of the pursuit of the American dream and the contributions of immigrants to the fabric of the United States with nuance and reverence. It will surely strike a chord with many readers, particularly those who’ve lived through similar experiences.
An emotional and engaging story of exploring one’s past and building a new life.
Pub Date: July 19, 2022
Page Count: 306
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2022
Review Program: KIRKUS INDIE