The physics are dubious, the story lightweight—but it’s all good fun.

ILLUSION

A time-traveling work of legerdemain by well-known Christian novelist Peretti (Piercing the Darkness, 2003, etc.).

If you were a magician’s assistant, you’d probably file suit if your employer sent you spinning off into another dimension. Somehow, that’s just what’s happened to Mandy Collins, the lesser of equals in the magic act Dane and Mandy, who, after four decades of being married to the boss, has drifted into an alternate universe where she’s back to her late-teen self in 1970. The soundtrack to that bit of time travel may be Flip Wilson, Dean Martin and Laugh-In (“Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me”), but all is not japes and jests in the land of the walking tie-dyed undead. Meanwhile, poor Dane Collins is stumbling through life thinking that Mandy is dead, their own private Idaho (“they still returned simply because it was Idaho and Mandy loved Idaho”) empty without her. Until, that is, Mandy shows up in her 19-year-old guise, leading the old magician to, well, think about new tricks. In a pure-of-heart way, of course: Dane’s no horndog, even if, you bet your bippy, the post-teenybopper makes for temptation: “Whatever this fixation with a twenty-year-old was,” he notes, “it had to be affecting his thinking.” Roger that. Peretti employs a squad of mad scientists to give the story wonky grounding—“She had at least 50 percent opacity, and I’m guessing I had the same opacity to her,” says one dogged researcher before barking out weird-science lingo that belongs on a Star Trek set. (The reader will want to work the term “deflection debt” into his or her next conversation.) It would be stealing Peretti’s thunder to tell what happens next, but suffice it to say that true love conquers all, even relativistic space-time.

The physics are dubious, the story lightweight—but it’s all good fun.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9267-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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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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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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