Though the wild, wounded rant of the opening story seems promising, by the time we get to the mental patient and the...

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WE ARE GATHERED

Monologues in the voices of six guests, plus the mother of the bride, at a wedding in Atlanta.

"There is no justice in this world, and you can start with the simple fact that some people look like Elizabeth Gottlieb," announces Carla Leftkowitz at the opening of the first story in Weisman's fiction debut, set at Elizabeth's wedding among the Jewish elite. The beauty of her lifelong friend, whom she now serves as bridesmaid, is particularly enervating because Carla has a port-wine birthmark covering half her left cheek. Author Weisman's background as a dermatologist adds texture to Carla's furious ruminations on physical beauty, as she passes her time imagining her 17 sister bridesmaids with "double chins, saggy breasts, twenty unlosable pounds around the middle, disappointment creased into their foreheads," yet she also dreams of a time "when we evolve to see the beauty in the stroked-out and the misshapen, the one-eyed and the cleft-lipped, the swollen and the stained." In the next story we hear from a character even more bitter than Carla: Elizabeth's grandfather Albert, a powerful, repellent man now mute and confined to a wheelchair after a stroke. Next up...a close family friend, who's attending with her nasty husband and also-wheelchair-bound son, the latter having been Elizabeth's charge when she worked as a teenager at a summer camp for the disabled. There are just a few tendrils of backstory to tie the characters together and virtually no plot development in the present tense of the wedding, so these long forays into the unhappy characters' inner lives have to hold the reader's attention on their own.

Though the wild, wounded rant of the opening story seems promising, by the time we get to the mental patient and the Holocaust survivor who wander (separately) off into the woods, the reader, too, is ready to leave.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-79329-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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