Turrill (A Bridge to Eden, not reviewed, etc.) can be rambling and slow to set the scene, but offers a taut and highly...



A preacher suffers adversities, has visions, gathers disciples, and sets out to fulfill God’s mission for him.

The Gudsens are old-school Michigan Lutherans: upright, honorable, and dull as dishwater. But lately they’ve been acting kind of strange. Herkimer Gudsen, the pastor of St. Luke’s Church in Saginaw, made headlines a while back when he was shot through the skull with a hunter’s arrow and miraculously lived to tell the tale. Surgeons had to leave part of the arrow shaft embedded in his head, but Herkimer suffered no ill effects whatever—or so it seemed. Now, though, he begins to hear God speaking to him, and the church elders aren’t entirely thrilled by his messages. They expel Herkimer from his church when he refuses to oust two openly gay parishioners who are living together, so he founds a church of his own with the pair of gay refugees as his first followers. His wife Megan, hopelessly ill with skin cancer, is wary of her husband’s visions but becomes a believer in short order when her cancer goes into remission and Herkimer is cured of his impotence. Even Herkimer’s jaded brother Jim, a world-weary Vietnam vet, gets in on the act, forsaking his agnosticism and pledging God his celibacy in exchange for Megan’s cure. When Herkimer declares that God has promised a cure for Megan in exchange for saving 12 lost souls, Jim and his brother take to the road. As they make their way to California, they gather in fallen women, junkies, hypocrites, and sinners of every age and condition. They also find a sister they’d never known about, and a father they’d given up for dead. Will Megan recover? Hard to say—but there’s no shortage of miracles on hand.

Turrill (A Bridge to Eden, not reviewed, etc.) can be rambling and slow to set the scene, but offers a taut and highly focused narrative once he gets going.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-59264-090-7

Page Count: 444

Publisher: Toby Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet