A gripping but uneven story of a young woman obtaining her independence in a new land.

Shanty Gold

An Irish immigrant forges a new life in a turbulent time in Charters’ debut novel.

In 1849, 13-year-old Mary Boland is determined to fulfill the promise she made to her dying mother: leave the disease and despair of life in Ireland, locate her father in America, and give him the golden cross that Mary’s mother gave her. After Mary initially meets kind strangers who help her get to the coast, a devious Englishwoman tricks her onto The Pilgrim’s Dandy, a “coffin ship” aboard which half the passengers are expected to die on the trans-Atlantic trip. Onboard, the sailors brutally use and abuse Mary, her new friend Ceili, and the slave boy Kamua. Despite the atrocities they face on the voyage, Mary and Kam are able to start a new life in Boston, where Kam gets work as a deliveryboy and Mary begins working in an Irish pub (Ceili isn’t so lucky). In time, they become a traveling medicine man and a midwife, respectively. As Mary tries to learn her father’s fate and sort out her feelings for the handsome Daniel Kelly, she begins having run-ins with the dangerous and lecherous Shiv McGraw, a gangster with an iron grip on South Boston. Mary must evade Shiv’s clutches, discover the secrets of her Irish family, and protect the lives of her new Boston family as she tries to establish her new life. Charters interweaves many important topics—immigration, civil rights, women’s rights—into her exciting novel. The narrative paints an evocative portrait of South Boston in the era of Irish immigration, and the supporting characters are particularly well-represented. However, the novel struggles to find a consistent tone as it switches from scenes of rape to childish friendship to slapstick pranks without the scene-setting and worldbuilding that would make such drastic shifts make sense.

A gripping but uneven story of a young woman obtaining her independence in a new land.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62420-176-9

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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