A tender but somewhat cloying romantic tale.

GONE TO IDAHO

In this early-20th-century drama, a teenager sets off in search of her long-lost mother.

In 1906, Ida Roeder is nearly killed in an earthquake in San Francisco. She’s separated from her husband and daughter and suffers from amnesia but is cared for by an altruistic stranger, Jamie. She moves with him to Idaho, takes on the name Liz—she can’t recall her own—and only remembers her former life in hazy scraps. Meanwhile, her husband, Bruno, who has believed her dead for five years, leaves New Mexico for Idaho when he discovers evidence she’s alive. Emma, Ida and Bruno’s 15-year-old daughter, exasperated she is left behind, decamps for Idaho on her own. Two of her best friends, Juan and Wolfe, join her on the journey, each harboring his own unexpressed romantic devotion to her, touchingly captured by Haag (Gone to Texas, 2016). Emma learns that her father is badly injured in an accident and has drifted into a coma. She rushes to be by his side, where she encounters Liz, who’s drawn to Bruno for reasons she’s still unprepared to fully fathom. And Jamie, who suspects that Bruno is her husband, moves him into his own home for medical care despite the deep love he feels for Liz. Jamie’s best friend, Dillon, warns him that he’s setting himself up for inevitable heartache, but he also becomes enchanted by Liz. His affection pits him against Jamie as a romantic rival. This second installment in the New Mexico Gal series is a complex but emotionally affecting family story. Haag artfully weaves together several romantically charged plotlines, and the tale hustles forward at a lively pace. But she tries to cram too much into a short novel, and those entanglements can feel frivolously soap-operatic. In addition, the prose can be torturously earnest. At one point, Jamie muses about Liz: “How old might the lady be? he wondered. Perhaps younger by a couple of years, judging from her firm and desirable body. Hey, wait a minute, his brain said. Are you lusting? No! You can’t be, his inner voice answered.”

A tender but somewhat cloying romantic tale.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4624-1

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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