A funny, romantic story about how “the road you think you’re not taking can become the road you’re actually on.”

CHUCKERMAN MAKES A MOVIE

A man writing a screenplay about an unforgettable childhood winter discovers more about his family—and himself—than he ever expected in this comic romance.

In 2002, New Yorker David Melman, a 35-year-old self-proclaimed “marketing and fragrance genius,” isn’t a big film buff, so he’s skeptical when his older sister Marcy suggests that he take a class called “Drama for the First-Time Film Writer,” taught by her friend Laurel Sorenson. But after some pressure, David gives in and enrolls. He initially plans to write about “a perfume maker named Mort Chuckerman who loses his sense of smell,” but Laurel (known to David’s brother-in-law as “The Mormon Rodeo,” for mysterious reasons) suggests that David write instead about the yellow 1970s Cadillac Coupe de Ville that he inherited from his grandfather Slip Melman. Soon, David’s scribbles yield a complicated, zany tale set in the winter of 1977, involving Slip’s banishment from the Men’s Card Room, a game room at his Florida apartment complex; Slip’s wife Estelle’s determination to finally learn to drive; and the antics of a colorful cast of Jewish retirees who make up the Melmans’ neighbors, friends, and enemies. Meanwhile, David dates the Mormon Rodeo, although things get complicated when it’s revealed that she may move to Los Angeles. It’s just supposed to be a fling, but although she’s not his first rodeo, she just might be his last. Dickman’s debut novel is witty and observant throughout, and she packs her prose with sensory detail, as when she describes the aforementioned Men’s Card Room’s “signature stench—humidity mixed with cigars mixed with...stale sweat.” That said, the characters can be stereotypical at times, with an immature hotshot with no time for love, an eccentric artist who shows him a new path, and a bickering but affectionate Jewish family. However, she makes them all feel unique with telling touches, such as Grandma Estelle’s Adidas driving sneakers or David’s “banana boat” creation: a banana stuffed with a Three Musketeers bar.

A funny, romantic story about how “the road you think you’re not taking can become the road you’re actually on.”

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-485-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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