A religious tale that delivers a touching, if occasionally mystifying, character study.

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JOHN “JACK” BROWN

VOICED BY THE WOMEN WHO KNEW HIM

A debut Christian novel focuses on one man’s life in Ohio.

MacPherson’s story begins with John “Jack” Brown’s former secretary’s explaining how Jack began his career at the Intricate Stamping Company. Jack was only 17 years old when he started working for the company part-time in 1960. Harnessing his confidence, he rose through the ranks, going from the maintenance crew to sales to eventually owning the company. He would steer the organization through difficult times, and, in better days, he always remembered those who were loyal along the way. Jack was, in other words, a man who knew how to treat people fairly while also getting things done. And though he excelled in business, his personal life was not always so cheerful. His wife, Sarah, died at a relatively young age, and he continued to speak about her in the present tense for the rest of his life. Jack’s story is told by six women who knew him in different ways. His daughter, Katherine, recalls what it was like clothes shopping with her father, while one of Jack’s former girlfriends explains how he could diffuse a situation with a flash of his blue eyes. The stories about Jack culminate in the fact that, in his later years, he came to a very personal understanding about his relationship with Jesus. While the memories of Jack are spotted with the fantastical (Is it really possible for someone to alleviate a problem with a mere look?), readers come to know him as a character worth caring about. He may be a bit too perfect, but he still manages to give good advice, as when one character reflects on how Jack motivated her to excel in school: “Jack said if I started quitting now, I could look forward to a lifetime of quitting.” He is also someone who has suffered tragic loss as well as the awkwardness of buying underwear for his teenage daughter. Since readers are presented with a vivid and detailed portrait of Jack, they should find his ultimate Christian message inspiring. Jack may be a man with incredible drive, but he does not embrace Christianity until his later years. It is ultimately a transformation that is believable even if some of Jack’s exploits are not.

A religious tale that delivers a touching, if occasionally mystifying, character study.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973616-26-9

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: March 9, 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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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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