A skillful, thrilling new spiritual saga.

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BEYOND THE FIRE

Jackson’s debut is a sprawling, enthralling fantasy epic with Christianity at its core.

Long ago in the land of Shingmar lived Josiah Stafford. Shingmar was overrun by idolatry, but Josiah was a believer in the one true God, the Word who was there at the beginning. Josiah’s true belief, however, ran him afoul of the king of Shingmar, who threw Josiah and his followers into prison and labor camps, where they languished until they were led over the mountains to freedom in the new nation of Amity. No sooner did they arrive than Shingmar was engulfed in a deluge, God’s judgment arriving in a wall of water. Jackson’s new fantasy is the story of Amity, a kind of semi-Christian nation beset by perils from without and within. Stafford’s religion is decidedly biblical, but the world of Amity is not our own, and its history is driven by an intriguing thought experiment: what would the Christian Word look like if it were preached in another world? Jackson says that his influence for Amity—and for the Beyond trilogy—is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Like Tolkien’s books, this new work began as a series of short vignettes sent by Jackson to his nephew, who was serving with the military in the first Gulf War in the early 1990s. Jackson’s other obvious literary forefather is C.S. Lewis, whose own fantasy realm of Narnia is built on the foundation of Christian tales and teachings. Like both Narnia and Middle-earth, Amity is a deeply fascinating new land that begs for our exploration. And like the works of Tolkien and Lewis, Beyond seems like the tip of an iceberg. It feels as if for every tale of Amity, there are 10 that remain untold. Jackson writes with remarkable clarity and insight. His characters are convincing and compassionate, and his narrative decisions are decisive. Further, he manages a tangle of storylines deftly, never letting complexity give way to confusion.

A skillful, thrilling new spiritual saga.

Pub Date: July 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-9559-2

Page Count: 556

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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