A moving tale of an immigrant child’s trials.
Awards & Accolades
In this historical novel, a young Polish immigrant in Pennsylvania struggles under the mercurial despotism of his father.
In 1911, Tadeusz Malinowski—everyone calls him Taddy or Tad—moves with his family from Poland to the United States when he is only 8 weeks old. They settle in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, led inconstantly by Tad’s father, Ignaz, or Jumbo as he is often called, who dishonestly insists that he has a royal bloodline. Of all the siblings, Tad is the favorite of his mother, Eva—he is a sweet boy who diligently looks after his older brother, Ziggy, who is mentally disabled, dismissively counted to be among the “low IQ unfortunates.” The entire family suffers under Jumbo’s delusions of grandeur and infantile spirit—he is talented and enterprising but also viciously violent and selfish. When he falls into financial arrears, he takes to alcohol—for a time, he’s a bootlegger who largely supplies himself with booze—and routinely beats Eva, who fecklessly tries to hide her bruises from the children. When Eva dies—Tad, the narrator of the story, is only 10 at the time—Jumbo only worsens his tyrannical grip over the family, sexually abusing his own daughter, Vera. Tad is haunted by guilt over his mother’s death—he furtively helped her perform an abortion on herself, a gruesome procedure that ended her life, chillingly described by Cox. Eva tells Tad she needs help discarding some blood pudding: “What I dumped into the hole was not blood pudding. It was bloody, all right, but it looked like a little lifeless red and purple tadpole. At one end, it had some little purple fins coming out from it. It had a long vein wrapped around it that ended in a soft, lumpy pool of black clots.” In heartbreakingly poignant terms, Tad relates his struggle to love his father, a complicated man who by turns invites admiration and contempt: “My love for Jumbo is a bitter task of loyalty.”
The author’s plot can take on a desultory, meandering quality—it often reads like a series of impressionist recollections rather than a tightly structured story. But a sense of thematic unity begins to slowly emerge, accompanied by a thoughtful reflection on the very nature of remembrance. Tad muses about his mother: “My dreams are different from my memories, which are gleaned through this unquenchable urge to dig into the past. This compulsion began abruptly with her death and continued relentlessly for many years. Regrettably, this process exposed me again and again to the pain, but it always seemed worth it. I could not stop it.” The novel often intentionally feels like a memoir—Cox’s literacy conceit is that the book is found years later by Tad’s son, not to be read until a century after Eva’s death. The author’s storytelling can be punishingly gritty—one particular scene in which Tad is brutally raped by an adult is as difficult to read as it is to forget. Fortunately, there is more to this tale than despair and woes—there is plenty of humor as well as hope to lighten readers’ loads.A moving tale of an immigrant child’s trials.
Pub Date: April 19, 2022
Page Count: 374
Publisher: Fulton Books
Review Posted Online: July 20, 2022
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Mitch Albom ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 14, 2023
A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.
Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Barbara Kingsolver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2022
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 560
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022
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