A moving study of the healing power of religious devotion.



A woman tries to exorcise her demons by exploring the ancient roots of her Christian faith in this heartfelt tale of remorse and redemption.

Middle-aged history professor Madeleine Seymour has an outwardly contented life, but she is still haunted, decades after the fact, by the death of her young daughter Mollie, who drowned in a plastic pool when Madeleine was momentarily distracted. Tormented by nightmares of Mollie and an irrational jealousy of other mothers, Madeleine seeks the counsel of her Anglican pastor Father Rinaldi, who sends Madeleine and her husband Jack on a trip to Italy to its Catholic shrines. Following Rinaldi’s itinerary around the country, from mighty St. Peter’s basilica to humbler country churches, they take in Catholicism at its gaudiest, with its miracle stories and relics and incorruptible remains displayed under glass. Along the way, Madeleine muses on the exploits of the saints, from St. Francis of Assisi’s reception of the stigmata, to the 13-year-old virgin martyr St. Agnes’ execution for refusing to marry a pagan, to St. Clare’s success in putting an army of marauding Saracens to flight by holding up the Reserved Sacrament. This might be mere colorful travelogue to another tourist, but Madeleine takes it very seriously. Alarmed at her growing obsession, a skeptical Jack introduces her to a psychiatrist, who turns out to be a shallow, condescending secularist who ridicules Madeleine’s “spiritual fantasies.” But as foreign as it is to modern sensibilities, and to her Protestant background, Madeleine finds that Catholic lore speaks to her. With its iconography of blood and sacrifice, its stories of suffering and death transmuted into hope and rebirth, it reveals lessons for coping with her long-festering grief and guilt. Balancing spiritual exaltation with psychological realism, Sunderland’s limpid prose makes Madeleine’s journey both gripping and believable.

A moving study of the healing power of religious devotion.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-60290-051-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2011

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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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