Readers who are not devoted followers of Karon may be impatient with the glacial pace of this installment.

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IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS

Book two of Karon’s new series about an Episcopal priest, The Father Tim Novels (Home to Holly Springs, 2007), continues as Father Tim’s long-awaited Ireland vacation turns into a busman’s holiday.

Father Tim Kavanagh, 70, and his wife, children’s author Cynthia, 64, have arrived at Broughadoon fishing lodge for a second honeymoon. A repeat visitor to the lodge, Tim re-encounters the proprietors, Anna Conor, her husband Liam and Anna’s daughter Bella, now a truculent teenager. Anna’s aging father William is the resident eminence grise. Until William bought it, Broughadoon was once part of the estate of Evelyn Conor, chatelaine of the adjacent manor house, Catharmore. The once lovely Evelyn, Liam’s formidable mother, is now an elderly alcoholic still furious with William for welshing on his youthful promise of marriage. (Instead, she married wealthy Riley Conor.) As if to prove there’s no vacation from Tim’s vocation, spiritually unsettling stuff happens. An intruder leaps out of a wardrobe, startling Cynthia, who stumbles, respraining her recently healed ankle. A priceless painting disappears from Broughadoon’s parlor. His Catholic hosts seek Tim out as an informal confessor. Anna is worried that William may actually be Liam’s father. Liam frets about the same possibility. William still regrets abandoning Evelyn. Meanwhile over at Catharmore, Evelyn has decided to detox and give her geriatric liver a fighting chance, only to suffer injuries in a fall. Tim accompanies Evelyn to the hospital (the Catholic priest being off on his own holiday) because her older son Paddy has retreated into his own boozy haze. Father Tim sees in Bella the same type of implacability that led him to take on his troubled adopted son Dooley. Can he foster similar paternal determination in Liam? Tim and Cynthia peruse a journal, circa 1861, written by Catharmore’s first owner. The long journal entries do little to advance the present story but are sometimes a welcome diversion from it.

Readers who are not devoted followers of Karon may be impatient with the glacial pace of this installment.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-670-02212-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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