On May 20, 1938, a young man from the Bronx informs his parents that he is leaving for the Catskills to begin his new job as a waiter. Instead, he sails for Europe to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, the opening round in the fight against Hitler and Mussolini. The man, Dave Lipton--the author's uncle--sends letter after letter home detailing his hopes and begging for forgiveness. He never receives a reply.
Decades later, Eunice Lipton stumbles upon clues for this silence, uncovering details of Dave's exhilarating political life in New York, his shuttered romantic life, and his deep friendship with another volunteer. A Distant Heartbeat tells a tale of passion and heroism, centered on a fierce competition between brothers, a packet of missing letters, and the unforeseen results of family betrayal.
"The very best stories are human ones, told with a compelling candor, offering insight into the human condition, and revealing what it truly means to live a life during 'interesting times.' Such is the case with A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance, and a Family's Secrets."--Midwest Book Review
"A precise, elegiac journey through history, family tensions, and human drama."--Shelf Awareness
"A true pleasure."--Jewish Currents
"Anyone interested in the barbed landscape of families and the awkward, painful, jerry-rigged nature of family relationships will find A Distant Heartbeat a rich and weighty book. There are mysteries here, and a deep, dark betrayal. But A Distant Heartbeat is less about surprises than about unwieldy sorrows and joys at the heart of what we call family life."--patricktreardon.com
"An art historian's account of the research she undertook to understand the life of a mysterious uncle. . . . Well-researched and . . . stirring."--Kirkus Reviews
"Eunice Lipton's A Distant Heartbeat is an intriguing memoir about an uncle she never met, set within the much broader context of the international brigades who fought against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War. A well-told tale of idealism, diaspora, and both personal and political heartbreak, it draws the reader into the author's lively (and dysfunctional) immigrant family until Uncle Dave's fate resonates with us too."--Lucy R. Lippard, author of Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West
"Eunice Lipton goes beyond memoir to explore the subliminal legacies of a traumatic event, showing how history survives almost invisibly to affect future generations. Like a jeweler turning a stone, she reveals various facets of a family story that illuminates both past and present."--Peter N. Carroll, author of From Guernica to Human Rights: Essays on the Spanish Civil War
"A beautifully conceived quest-driven family memoir subtly intertwined with a cultural and political history of Jewish-immigrant New York City in the decades preceding World War II. Given its stylistic clarity, vivid approach, and its 'detective story' qualities, readers will be unable to put it down."--Leo Spitzer, Vernon Professor of History Emeritus, Dartmouth College, author of Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism
"The protagonist of A Distant Heartbeat is a man Eunice Lipton never met who died in a war being fought before she was born. Yet both the man and the war have haunted her throughout her life. Out of that dreamlike experience Lipton has fashioned an unusual and compelling memoir in which the actual and the imagined are vividly braided together."
--Vivian Gornick, author of The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir
"A heartfelt, eloquent book, and a most unusual addition to the literature on the Spanish Civil War."
--Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918