An engaging first installment in a family saga that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next three.

GIDDYAP TIN LIZZIE

THE LONG ROAD BACK TO THE PLOW

From the O'Shaughnessy Chronicles series

Thorpe (Bellamy’s Ball, 2015, etc.) offers a historical novel about the O’Shaughnessys of rural Wisconsin.

In 1913, Grandpa Duffy, a stiff-necked old man, dies, but he doesn’t bequeath his dairy farm to Will O’Shaughnessy, his eldest grandson, as expected. Will’s brother, Frank, who’s just as heartless as Grandpa was, gets it instead. Jesse, the youngest of the three O’Shaughnessy brothers, is a hopeless alcoholic, who will eventually come back from World War I grotesquely disfigured. Will still longs be a farmer, having gone to University of Wisconsin and absorbed modern agricultural ideas. He wins the heart of the lovely, smart Mary Tregonning and winds up owning a Ford dealership in Ashley Springs. Prosperity follows, and soon they can afford to buy the finest house in town, where they eventually raise four children. Readers follow these O’Shaughnessys through World War I, the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918—which takes Michael, their firstborn—Prohibition (Will is a moderate drinker, Mary a scolding teetotaler), and the Roaring ’20s, when everyone, even Mary, gets stock market fever. Will is a cautious investor; others, such as his father, are suckered by con men or their own greed. Will soon faces a hard decision as his once-prospering dealership suffers direly. Any novel that starts out with hogs eating Grandpa is sure to grab readers’ attention. But Thorpe doesn’t disappoint as the story goes on; he’s a native of the Badger State himself, and he clearly knows it and its people well. It shows in his novel, which features well-developed characters that ring true. One running, character-based gag, for example, is that Will, a successful Ford dealer, still prefers to ride around in his horse and buggy. As a result, readers will grow to love Will and Mary and the girls, and cheer as they arrive at the farm that Will has wanted for so long.

An engaging first installment in a family saga that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next three.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9849245-4-7

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Little Creek Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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