A strong portrait of a man of nobility at odds with circumstance, but, ultimately, a world not much larger than the filebox...

THE GOD FILE

Alabama attorney Hollon (The Pains of April, 1999, not reviewed) does the jailhouse blues raw and quirky in this tale of a sensitive loser who took the murder-one rap for love, then spent the next 22 years methodically looking for God. Gabriel Black wasn’t exactly on the fast track for success when his lover pulled out a gun and shot her husband dead with him looking on, but even so he didn’t need to take the gun away from her and claim he did it. His act of sacrifice got him life without parole, and he never saw or heard from the woman again, even though he continues to imagine their lives together and writes her poignant letters. Having established on his cellblock that he is not a man to be buggered (by slicing open the scrotum of a would-be attacker), Gabriel is left alone, with plenty of time to create his “God file.” Intended to serve as accumulated evidence of God’s existence, it contains his letters, dreams, conversations with fellow inmates and accounts of prison experience, and above all reflections on his Catholic childhood, his fractured family, and who he has become. But the years of contemplation pale next to a single act of desperation, which leaves a man knifed to death in Gabriel’s cell and him with a new perspective on living.

A strong portrait of a man of nobility at odds with circumstance, but, ultimately, a world not much larger than the filebox Gabriel assembles so obsessively.

Pub Date: March 15, 2002

ISBN: 1-931561-04-4

Page Count: 157

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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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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