A woman doggedly investigates the details of her father’s life, a man she hardly knew.
When debut author Krulick-Belin was only a child living in Queens in 1960, her father was hospitalized for bone marrow cancer, and the morning of his departure was the last time she ever saw him. An intensely private woman, her mother responded to the tragedy of the loss with an impregnable reticence, zealously guarding information about the man and her life with him from her children. The author grew up under the regime of this “deafening silence,” not even knowing what disease felled her father until years later. On her 40th birthday, one of her aunts gave her a series of cassettes on which the relative recorded a sort of informal family history, but even that studiously excluded huge pieces of the overall puzzle. In 2001, the author’s mother grew ill and moved to a nursing home in Florida near one of her sons, leaving Krulick-Belin to pack up the apartment. In the process, her husband found an old box of letters her father wrote to her mother, which the author was allowed to keep on the condition that she only read them after her mother’s death. Her mother died about a year after the move, but Krulick-Belin, anxious about what secrets the box might reveal, waited six years before she finally perused the contents. The letters were sent from various theaters of battle during World War II, from 1942 to 1945, many while her father participated in the Army’s North African campaign. Krulick-Belin reproduces the letters in full here, and they reveal a tender man, insecurely anxious about the requiting of his affections. And as the author tenaciously examines her father’s life, she learns about her mother, too, who, unbeknown to her, had a prior marriage that was annulled. This remembrance, the result of extraordinary detective work, is a moving love letter from daughter to father but also a testament to the emotional significance of family legacy. For the reader unacquainted with the author’s family, this biography may seem both too long and too detailed. Nonetheless, it remains a poignant fusion of history and familial devotion.
A touching biography of a World War II soldier that unfolds like a mystery.