A stirring story of Berlin teens’ contributions to the Resistance, but a slightly blinkered view of the Holocaust limits the...

THE BAKER'S DAUGHTER

BRAVING EVIL IN WW II BERLIN

A historical novel focuses on Christian opposition to the Nazis in Germany during World War II.

As the book opens in June 1943, two 17-year-olds set out for Berlin. One is Marek Menkowicz; his parents (a Jewish mother and Roman Catholic father) are missing, so he’s departing Warsaw to stay with an uncle in the German capital. Marek learned to bake and operate a printing press at the monastery led by Father Maximilian Kolbe, later killed at Auschwitz. Meanwhile, history buff Liddy Mittendorf leaves her grandmother’s Munich home to return to the family bakery in Berlin. Her father, Klaus, works nights as a prison guard and delivers secret letters for Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, arrested for plotting to kill Hitler. Impressed by Marek’s marble rye loaf, the Mittendorfs hire him to work mornings at the bakery; in his remaining time, he supports the Resistance by printing fake identification papers. The Mittendorfs don’t know he’s part-Jewish, and Liddy only later learns of his Resistance involvement. With Conrad Keppler of the Nazi police a frequent bakery visitor, the teens must be vigilant. Cornelius (Good News—I Failed, a Story of Inventing in Minnesota, 2011) weaves in the cameos from historical figures nicely and avoids stereotyping Nazis as heartless villains. For instance, Keppler, a former music professor, teaches 8-year-old Willy Mittendorf to play the piano, and the simple message of God’s unconditional love helps the Nazi overcome his bitterness about his brother’s death. Marek and Liddy are gutsy, relatable characters in a budding romance; their adventures should be inspirational for readers of Christian YA fiction. And Bonhoeffer’s words are as poignant as ever: “judging others makes us blind,” and “silence in the face of evil is evil itself.” But the redemption of an apparently evil character like Keppler, though touching, forms a bitter contrast with what happens to Marek and makes the sudden conclusion feel falsely positive. Everything’s coming up roses for the Mittendorfs, it seems, while the Jewish genocide only really appears via a concentration camp scene in a dream.

A stirring story of Berlin teens’ contributions to the Resistance, but a slightly blinkered view of the Holocaust limits the tale’s authenticity.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946016-10-2

Page Count: -

Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2017

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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