Deep schmaltz in the Bible Belt.

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WHEN CRICKETS CRY

Christian-fiction writer Martin (The Dead Don’t Dance, not reviewed) chronicles the personal tragedy of a Georgia heart surgeon.

Five years ago in Atlanta, Reese could not save his beloved wife Emma from heart failure, even though the Harvard-trained surgeon became a physician so that he could find a way to fix his childhood sweetheart’s congenitally faulty ticker. He renounced practicing medicine after her death and now lives in quiet anonymity as a boat mechanic on Lake Burton. Across the lake is Emma’s brother Charlie, who was rendered blind on the same desperate night that Reese fought to revive his wife on their kitchen floor. When Reese helps save the life of a seven-year-old local girl named Annie, who turns out to have irreparable heart damage, he is compassionately drawn into her case. He also grows close to Annie’s attractive Aunt Cindy and gradually comes to recognize that the family needs his expertise as a transplant surgeon. Martin displays some impressive knowledge about medical practice and the workings of the heart, but his Christian message is not exactly subtle. “If anything in this universe reflects the fingerprint of God, it is the human heart,” Reese notes of his medical studies. Emma’s letters (kept in a bank vault) quote Bible verse; Charlie elucidates stories of Jesus’ miracles for young Annie; even the napkins at the local bar, The Well, carry passages from the Gospel of John for the benefit of the biker clientele. Moreover, Martin relentlessly hammers home his sentimentality with nature-specific metaphors involving mating cardinals and crying crickets. (Annie sells crickets as well as lemonade to raise money for her heart surgery.) Reese’s habitual muttering of worldly slogans from Milton and Shakespeare (“I am ashes where once I was fire”) doesn’t much cut the cloying piety, and an over-the-top surgical save leaves the reader feeling positively bruised.

Deep schmaltz in the Bible Belt.

Pub Date: April 4, 2006

ISBN: 1-5955-4054-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: WestBow/Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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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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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

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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