An engaging, if somewhat facile, novel of wartime.

Save Me Twice

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

Dustin tells the story of two brothers caught in the horrors of World War II in this debut novel.

When Nazi SS officers show up at his mother’s house in the middle of the night, 16-year-old Karl Elheusch knows they’ve come for him and his brothers. It’s October 1944, and Germany’s defenses are collapsing on all fronts. Hitler has ordered that all German boys over the age of 12 be pressed into military service to bolster the nation’s depleted armed forces. Sixty years later, Karl’s daughter, Ellie, waits at Washington Dulles International Airport to pick him up; it’s his first trip to the United States from Germany. But the elderly Karl suffers from chest pains soon after he arrives, so Ellie takes him to a hospital, where she learns that his heart is enlarged and will require a stent. While dozing, Karl remembers his time during the war. He and his brother, Hans, were forced to man the eastern front and were eventually captured by the Russians—an enemy that was much feared for its callous treatment of prisoners. Karl became separated from Hans and managed to escape, only to fall into the hands of American forces. As a prisoner of war, he was forced to assist in the cleanup of the Mauthausen concentration camp, where he confronted German atrocities against people he once knew. Concerned for Hans’ safety and unsure of his own fate, Karl underwent psychological torments that stayed with him for decades to come. Dustin writes in a plain but effective prose, communicating the details of Karl’s life in grim simplicity: “Prepare yourselves,” another POW warns Karl at one point. “They took a few of us to Mauthausen yesterday morning. I saw piles and piles of skeletons, dead after dead.” In an afterword, the author reveals that the novel was based on a true story, and it reads as such. This isn’t always for the best, however, as the larger themes of trauma and regret get somewhat lost in the particulars of Karl’s biography, and the serendipitous way that Karl’s past merges with his present feels almost jokey in tone. Even so, readers who are interested in semihistorical World War II stories will likely enjoy Karl’s tale.

An engaging, if somewhat facile, novel of wartime.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5374-7507-3

Page Count: 266

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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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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