A charming and well-crafted tale of family, compassion, and acceptance.



A pastor and a young mother connect over their love for a child with autism in this novel.

Hana is a parent trying to start a new life. But for the moment, she has ended up in the basement at her sister Kara’s house in a small town in Oklahoma. “Kara’s was a prettily packaged life, the kind with ribbons and a bow,” Kaufman (The Story People, 2016) writes of the two sisters. “Hana’s was a banged and dented UPS box left on the wrong doorstep.” Indeed, Kara has a seemingly perfect spouse and children while Hana has had to flee Cincinnati to escape her abusive ex-husband, Zeke, and struggles with her autistic son, Isaac. His behavior ranges from adorable (insisting on bringing his turtle, Rocky, everywhere) to disturbing (hitting himself or pulling out his own hair). After being humiliated during a service at Hope Church by one of Isaac’s tantrums, Hana thinks she’s at her breaking point. But suddenly, the small community lives up to its church’s name. Kara’s pastor, Matt Schofield, gladly lets Isaac examine his beard and tell him all about turtles. For Matt, Isaac is the chance to break out of his routine and make up for something terrible that happened to a similar little boy long ago, before autism was commonly understood. And for Hana, Matt might mean the chance for a normal life. Throughout this sweet story, Kaufman does an excellent job of portraying Hana’s frustrations and unrelenting love for Isaac. Her twinges of irritation when people try to explain away Isaac’s problem, even in helpful and loving ways, perfectly capture this mother’s efforts to treat her son like any other while also dealing with the realities of autism. These well-constructed tensions make it all the more satisfying when Matt finally arrives and connects with Isaac on his terms. The book stumbles a bit toward its conclusion, bringing Zeke back as an unnecessary—and far too creepy—last-minute villain, but readers should ultimately find the journey of Hana and her very special Isaac delightful.

A charming and well-crafted tale of family, compassion, and acceptance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7586-5789-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Concordia Publishing House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet