A Daring Escape from Communist Yugoslavia – an Editorial Review of “The Soul of a Shoemaker” by The Historical Fiction Company

Editorial Review:

Have you come from Yugoslavia, then?” Frank nodded. “I’ve been trying to get across the border all night.” The man smiled. “Well, I’m happy to tell you that you’ve made it. You’re in Austria. We get a few people visiting us from your country now and then.” Frank felt a joy infuse him unlike anything he’d ever experienced before. He’d made it! He never had to worry about Tito’s hounds or police ever again. This was the first day of a new life. He was ready! “Thank you,” he murmured. “Thank you!” Waves and waves of realizations hit him so hard his knees gave way and he collapsed to the ground. Tears of joy streamed down his face.

“The Soul of a Shoemaker” by Susan Cork is a captivating and deeply personal account of her father’s remarkable life. From his humble beginnings as a young boy with big dreams on his parents’ farm to his daring escape from an oppressive communist country, Frank Katana’s journey is a testament to bravery, determination, and the pursuit of a better life. Cork’s skillful storytelling blurs the lines between memoir and novel, immersing readers in Frank’s experiences and evoking a range of emotions.

Reading this novel feels like being on a thrilling adventure alongside the protagonist. Cork’s writing is sharp and meticulously crafted, delivering the facts without unnecessary embellishments that might detract from the authenticity of the story. Through her skilled narration, she weaves together a series of events that lead up to Frank’s daring escape across the Yugoslavian border into Austria, where he ultimately sets his sights on Canada as his destination for a better life.

By the time Frank left the small office, his head was spinning. There was so much to take in. He began to wonder how he’d like Canada. It would be so different from any place he had ever lived. Although life in Austria was different, it was close to the only place he’d ever called home. Home. That was a strange word. What was home?

One of the most striking aspects of Frank’s story is his unwavering determination. Throughout the memoir, his fierce resolve shines through the pages, urging readers to continue on this journey with him. Despite the numerous challenges he faces, Frank never gives up on his dreams. Cork effectively captures the depth of emotion felt by an entire generation through the lens of one man’s pursuit of personal fulfillment.

Arriving in Canada is not the end of Frank’s struggles; it merely marks the beginning of a new chapter. Cork adeptly portrays Frank’s continued yearning for the woman he loves, the hardships he faces in unfamiliar work environments, and the occasional doubts and disappointments that accompany his pursuit of the seemingly unattainable dream. These nuanced depictions humanize Frank, allowing readers to connect with his ambition and experience his very real triumphs and setbacks.

While Cork’s writing immerses readers in the essence of Frank’s journey, some may find themselves craving more details about the realities of life during that time. However, given that this is a memoir based on real events, it is understandable that certain aspects may be omitted. This desire for a deeper understanding of Frank’s experiences serves as a testament to Cork’s ability to engage readers and leave them hungry for more.

Set against the backdrop of communism’s oppressive grip on numerous countries, this story is not just one man’s quest for a better life. Frank’s path intersects with countless others who, like him, seek freedom and opportunity. Cork masterfully portrays the encounters Frank has with fellow refugees in Austrian camps and later in Canada, highlighting the shared resilience and hopes of individuals striving for a brighter future.

Throughout the memoir, Frank’s one true love, Ljubica, remains a constant source of inspiration and motivation. While readers are only offered glimpses of her true essence, Cork’s portrayal emphasizes the power of love that transcends time and distance. The lack of extensive details regarding Ljubica’s character leaves room for readers’ imagination and underscores the notion that love sometimes defies explanation

Ljubica gave him a little smile and walked toward him. He stood rooted to his spot, relishing the moment. When she came close enough, he enveloped her in his arms and kissed her with the passion he’d felt since the first moment he’d laid eyes on her in that park so long ago. She returned his kiss with a sweetness and openness that made him groan. She was here. She was his. He was whole.

Not only does the author tell the story of one man’s remarkable journey but also hints at the vastness of his impact. Frank’s unwavering determination and resilience would carry him through years of adventures, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations. Cork’s portrayal of Frank’s indomitable spirit inspires readers to reflect on the potential for greatness that lies within each of us.

“The Soul of a Shoemaker” by Susan Cork is an emotionally charged and enthralling account of a man’s extraordinary life. Through skillful storytelling and a seamless blend of memoir and novel, Cork takes readers on a captivating journey of bravery, resilience, and the pursuit of a better life. The memoir’s ability to evoke a range of emotions and leave readers longing for more speaks to Cork’s talent as a writer. With its universal themes and profound insights into the human spirit.


“The Soul of a Shoemaker” by Susan Cork is a deserving recipient of its 4.5-star rating from The Historical Fiction Company

Read the review from The Historical Fiction Company

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