A quirky but exceptional story of infinite love and life-sustaining commitment.

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CHASING THE KING OF HEARTS

Polish writer Krall transmutes the real experience of a Holocaust survivor into an emotionally bleached yet devastating account of where love can take us.

In a shockingly matter-of-fact tone, Krall (The Woman from Hamburg and Other True Stories, 2005, etc.) recounts the horrors of Jewish suffering during World War II in brief chapters and a terse narrative voice: “Shayek leaves to fetch his sisters but comes back without them. They committed suicide, after poisoning little Szymus. Shayek tried to find out where they were buried, but the man who dug their grave is no longer alive either.” Without preamble, her short novel plunges the reader into the midst of life in the Warsaw ghetto, where bombs, lice, typhus, and death are everyday events. The book’s running refrain when someone disappears is: “That’s too bad….We’re still here.” The narrative belongs to Izolda Regensberg, who meets her husband, Shayek, on Page 1 and spends most of the remaining pages trying to save him, first from Auschwitz and later Mauthausen concentration camps. Initially she escapes from the ghetto and works to save her own family and Shayek’s, dyeing her hair blonde, taking on an Aryan identity, and accepting rape by policemen as a form of currency. Her nightmare picaresque journey of arrests, escapes, and desperate negotiations continues after Shayek’s arrest. She is sent into forced labor, beaten and tortured by the Gestapo, later dispatched to Auschwitz herself, and yet her indomitable resilience pushes her ever forward—and the occasional chapters set 25 years in the future, in Israel, with Izolda surrounded by grandchildren, confirm she will survive. But it’s Krall’s unique voice that dominates this detached, surreal, curiously playful tale of a woman of indefatigable resourcefulness trapped between history and her heart.

A quirky but exceptional story of infinite love and life-sustaining commitment.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55861-944-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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