Greeley, timeless as Rome, springs eternal.

SECOND SPRING

A LOVE STORY

Greeley returns with The Sixth Chronicle of the O’Malley Family in the Twentieth Century, the first having been 1998’s A Midwinter’s Tale.

In volume four, the Catholic O’Malleys of Chicago, Chucky and sexpot Rosemarie, began singing “September Song” in their early and middle 40s, though that late leaf-fall usually strikes in one’s 50s or 60s. Or was it just blues for the Jack and Bobby Kennedy deaths? Now in their late 40s, the O’Malleys face Chucky’s midlife identity crisis, volume five never having appeared at Kirkus. In any event, the plot appears to pick up where September Song (2001) left off—or else volume five made little difference. Now we find the O’Malleys in Rome, in 1978, and a new Pope being chosen (who will soon die and himself be replaced). First, there’s Chucky describing for us his wife’s postcoital body, which, for a fastidious man whom Jack Kennedy sent as our ambassador to Germany, seems boorish until Rosemarie, who takes up alternate chapters for the Crazy O’Malleys, reveals that “Our sex life wasn’t always great, no one’s is. But it was mostly good and often great, sometimes almost transcendent.” Now Chucky’s moping, sapped and disillusioned, a sad sack who’s lost his rambunctiousness despite a once-great career as a decorated Korean vet, his spunk as a photographer of America’s racial crisis in Little Rock, his ambassadorship, and later tiffs with LBJ about Vietnam. Though the O’Malleys were appointed by Paul VI to help revise birth-control teaching, their suggestions were ignored. They now fight a well-protected pedophile priest, then go up against Chicago’s lying, corrupt, paranoid, fat, ugly, psychopathic Cardinal Archbishop Thomas John O’Neill, one of Greeley’s grungiest creations, whose portrait Chucky shoots. Chucky collects a dossier on O’Neill to get Rome to dismiss him. The Pope sighs no. Now O’Neill shores up more power while Chucky’s health wavers and evergreen family problems prick and writhe.

Greeley, timeless as Rome, springs eternal.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-765-30236-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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