A 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Silver Winner for Biography
Against the backdrop of World War II, Joy Passanante’s touching new book, Through a Long Absence: Words from My Father’s Wars, is the saga of a wartime medical unit, a passionate long-distance love, the making of a surgeon, and two first-generation American families. Told through her father’s eyes—drawing on hundreds of his letters to his beloved wife, his four-volume wartime diary, and his paintings—Passanante masterfully recreates his wartime journey and physically retraces his steps more than sixty years later in an attempt to understand a time in her parents’ lives that they’d spoken about very little.
More than just a World War II story, Through a Long Absence delves into one man’s past to explore his personal wars: a stint as a child bootlegger, a marriage between newlyweds separated by continents and strained by years apart, and his struggle late in life with his own mind. The narrative propels readers to surprising places—from a freight train through North Africa to an underground St. Louis distillery during Prohibition, from a young couple’s forbidden courtship to the chaos of surgical tents under fire in Normandy, from an underground trove of priceless artwork hidden by the Nazis to Jewish New Year services in Paris a week after its liberation. Through a Long Absence is a love story, an honest look into one man’s life, and a daughter’s moving quest to rediscover her father years later through his own words.
About the Author
Joy Passanante has been publishing in three genres for five decades. She is the author of The Art of Absence, My Mother’s Lovers, and Sinning in Italy.
“Armed with a trove of letters . . . the latter-day Passanante explores her father’s recollection of events and retraces his steps on some parts of the journey. She has a good eye for the telling detail.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This intimate and epic portrait of a father from a daughter is both an act of love and of memory, lost and miraculously found. It’s absorbing and affecting in every detail. Through a Long Absence is one from the heart. It’ll take a piece out of you.” —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“In this meticulously researched and intricately imagined story, Joy Passanante honors—in the best possible way—the love her parents discovered in their youth, maintained through the long absence of war, and carried to the grave (and one imagines, beyond it). Elegiac and deeply loving in tone, this daughter’s re-creation of her parents’ lives also serves as a reminder of the toll war takes on the human souls of the survivors.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted
“With skill and devotion, Joy Passanante follows the trail of her father’s youth working for a bootlegger, his passionate courtship of her mother, and his years as a U.S. Army doctor overseas and under fire in World War II. Her book is a remarkable and moving tribute to family love and tradition.” —Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize winner
“With poignancy and grace, Joy Passanante has written a love story for the ages: the war-time love between her father and mother; the love the author feels for her parents, her husband, and her own children; and the love she feels for the story that has bound and defined them. With unbridled affection and admiration, Passanante follows the hero’s journey her father undertook as a young husband, soldier, and physician. Her poet’s eye for the telling detail infuses every diary entry, letter, and memory with such vivid imagery and emotion that we find ourselves not only retracing but reliving the hardships of war, just as the author does as she travels back to the battlefields and towns that shaped the man her father would become. A love story, yes, but this book is also a love letter to the author’s father and the many people in war-torn countries whose lives he touched and whose lives touched him. There is a unity of purpose and spirit in this book that will speak to the children and grandchildren of the Greatest Generation. We come away reminded of the focus and sacrifice that, though elevated to myth, happened at the level of the individual. The treasury of memories this book contains is a gift that informs and inspires not only the author and her family but all of us in our shared experience of fear, loss, hope, devotion, and survival. —Kim Barnes, Pulitzer Prize Finalist for In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country
“Through a Long Absence is bursting at the seams with the real stuff of life. War, love, loss, family—all these play out in the classic American context of an immigrant striving toward that hard-won place in the sun. Joy Passanante’s wise and passionate memoir is a moving testament not just to her family but also to the deep thing in all of us that keeps turning–and, on some level, never stops yearning—for the people and places in our past that are the soul’s true home.” —Ben Fountain, National Book Critics Circle Award winner
“With insight and compassion, Joy Passanante embarks on a journey to investigate one of the great and often unsettling mysteries of life—who were our parents before we came into their lives?” —John Sayles, novelist and filmmaker