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

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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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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