Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


A Novel

Joseph Hurka

Thomas Dunne Books




Over one September night on their small suburban street, the neighbors of Joseph Hurka's novel Before connect. Whether they're strangers, acquaintances, or ultimately closest allies, the familiar residents of a street in Hurka's Cambridge, Massachusetts, fascinate and terrify, and Hurka's debut novel offers us the depths of their strange and secret lives.
Seventy-three-year-old Jiri Posselt and his wife, Anna, are survivors of the Nazi horror in Czechoslovakia; they have befriended a neighbor named Tika LaFond, a college student who has faced great challenges of her own. And as night descends we meet another character, a man who enters the apartments of neighborhood women when they aren't home, taking a peculiar inventory of their lives.
We discover why this ghostly man, haunted terribly by his past, is so twisted. When he becomes increasingly violent and, in the early hours of morning, fixes his attention exclusively on Tika, it will fall to Jiri Posselt---weakened by age but an utterly determined soul---to help his young friend.
As we come to know the characters of Before through their own memories, we begin to understand their lives before terror affected them. As their lives converge, we see how good can work in the face of evil. And as they come to understand fully their own pasts in this thrilling and meticulously crafted fiction, we realize how the absolute power of knowledge and redemption can counter the true birthplaces of terror.


Chapter One

Cambridge, Massachusetts: September 10, 2001

The pigeons flutter and sail through the city. They light over the vacant eyes of Demosthenes, high on Memorial Hall; they swoop beneath the leaves of Harvard Yard and crowd...


Praise for Before

“Hurka has accomplished what seems impossible--he has created three very different characters whose stories smoothly interact into an emotional, frightening and compelling novel....beautiful writing.” —Deseret Morning News

“Joe Hurka has given us a beautifully written novel that, rather astonishingly, manages to weave together memory, loss, youth, hope, and evil into a compelling story that spans generations. There are echoes upon echoes in this haunting tale.” —Anita Shreve, author of Body Surfing

“Set in the lengthening shadows of the twentieth century and the stark sunlight of the twenty-first, Joseph Hurka brilliantly illuminates here not only our capacity to do one another great and lasting harm but also our innate desire to rise above the darkness with courage and grace and an enduring faith in what is truly possible in ourselves.” —Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog

“A powerful and fearless novel about the violent histories people carry into exile--and the way memory continues to haunt, even after decades of peace. Intense, often frightening, ultimately redemptive.” —Peter Orner, author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

“A stunning novel of intrigue and delight. You read this book as if watching a film; the visuals are spectacular, and the meaning of the story reverberates in your mind long after.” —F. D. Reeve, author of My Sister Life

Before shows us two men shaped by war trauma, haunted by vivid memories, and driven to extremes--of kindness and evil. The writing carries a deep and swift energy. Joseph Hurka understands how war shapes lives--for better and worse.” —Neenah Ellis, public radio producer and author of If I Live to Be 100: Lessons from the Centenarians

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Joseph Hurka

Joseph Hurka is the author of the memoir Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father, winner of the 2001 Pushcart Editors' Book Award. He teaches at Tufts University and Emerson College, and lives in southern New Hampshire.

Joseph Hurka

From the Publisher

Thomas Dunne Books

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