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

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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 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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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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