A Southern Gothic morality tale edging into the supernatural.



Coffey (The Devil Walks in Mattingly, 2014, etc.) spins a wicked tale about Campbell’s Mountain, where lurk "hungry things that existed only in madness and nightmares."

"Curse ye," cries Alvaretta Graves, a crone whose "power lay in something beyond fists and iron." Four teens have confronted Alvaretta at her ramshackle mountain cabin above Crow Hollow, an isolated Virginia village. There’s Cordelia Vest, daughter of Bucky Vest, local constable; Naomi Ramsay, whose father preaches at First Crow Hollow Church of the Holy Spirit on Fire; and Scarlett Bickford, the mayor’s daughter. Scarlett lost Cordelia’s mother’s diamond bracelet. Alvaretta found it. But Alvaretta hates everyone in Crow Hollow, blaming them for her husband’s death years past. Scarlett turns mute. Cordelia’s face is paralyzed. Naomi develops uncontrollable palsy. Soon other village girls display similar symptoms. An omniscient narrator, all hillbilly twang, relates the tale to an anonymous passerby, giving him "a front row seat on the folly of man." Mass hysteria? Doc Sullivan thinks so, but Crow Hollow folk "know there’s more to the world than what you can find in books." Then Medric Johnston, funeral home owner and the Hollow’s lone African-American, is forced to disinter Stu Graves’ coffin. What’s there becomes a cancer eating the Hollow’s soul. With its internal dichotomy between folk magic and psychological implosion—either interpretation palatable—Coffey’s tale is peopled with nuanced characters: Chessie and Briar Hodge are churchgoing moonshiners; burnt-out John David, a pastor’s son home from Middle Eastern wars; and Bucky, a Barney Fife–like figure whose love for Cordelia inspires courage as his town descends into anarchy. With hate confronting guilt and terror overwhelming rationality, Coffey’s story blends folklore, superstition, and subconscious dread in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery."

A Southern Gothic morality tale edging into the supernatural.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7180-2677-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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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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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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