As amiable and charming as all his novels, Edgerton's latest about small-town life brings together his usual cast of drunks, church-going Baptists, and southern eccentrics, all of whom encounter the Devil in the form of a traveling ne'er-do-well. This devilish Jack Umstead (a.k.a. Rusty Smith, a.k.a. Delbert Jones, etc.) even dares to pretend he's Jesus—the true sign of the Antichrist—in deceiving the sick and elderly Dorothea Clark. Neither Dorothea nor her two sisters (who never married and are thus known as the Blaines), who run a chicken- and ice-store, were ever quite right, and they still can't understand why Dorothea went off and married that vulgar Clark fellow, Claude T. of the gold ring and Cadillac. Most of what we learn is through the eyes of little Stephen Toomey, the coddled and asthmatic son of Harvey and Alease, Alease herself a righteous and pretty woman not immune to Umstead's blandishments. Everyone in little Listre, a town that ``looked settled, ripe, timid, kind of stupid,'' is touched by Umstead's evil presence. He seduces the dreamy-eyed Cheryl Daniels, the sister of Stephen's best friend, Terry (Terry is additionally providing a spiritual crisis for the married preacher, Mr. Crenshaw). Umstead also pals up with Stephen's drunk Uncle Raleigh, a vet who lost an arm during WW II. But Umstead bides his time for his big score—he hopes to rob the Blaine Sisters when the next lightning storm comes, since that's when they abandon their home for their sister Dorothea's. Little Stephen, who wants to cuss, drink, and smoke like the men of Listre, is lucky enough to witness Umstead's bloody end. And he discovers that it's a lot more enjoyable than the readings from Aunt Margaret's Bible Stories, a volume that provides parallel texts throughout the novel. Jokes about breasts and flatulence punctuate a lighthearted treatment of good and evil and the simple world of those who are weak but seek salvation. An always enjoyable read. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1997

ISBN: 1-56512-061-2

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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