Few Westerns reach the level of Lonesome Dove, but Guinn’s latest is a better, more rambunctious tale than the trilogy’s...

BUFFALO TRAIL

Continuing his trilogy about one-time St. Louis street kid Cash McLendon, Guinn (Glorious, 2014, etc.) rides onto the Great Plains.

Still pursuing lost love Gabrielle and wary of an assassin dispatched by his former father-in-law, Cash drifts through Texas, loses his grubstake to Doc Holliday, and stumbles into "unsightly and dangerous" Dodge City, all "sod huts and wooden shacks." He meets Bat Masterson, a "mouthy little peckerwood," and the two scavenge buffalo bones to earn beans and bed. Guinn makes lively characters of historical buffalo hunters, and his imaginative take booms like a Sharps .50 as cultures collide across the Cimarron River, which locals call the Dead Line: "When we cross over, we're truly in Indian country." The last great buffalo slaughter is centered at Adobe Walls in Texas. Quanah, a Comanche war chief "more feared than Satan himself," has manipulated Kiowa and Cheyenne Indians with claims that the great chief Buffalo Hump’s spirit can drive whites from the plains. In chapters that alternate between Cash’s and Quanah’s points of view, storekeepers price-gouge, hunters drink and fight, Comanches go hungry, and Texas cattlemen wait for the legislature to move the "tick line" quarantine to Dodge. Guinn’s research brings to life the daily lives of the Comanche: their focus on plunder, torture, and rape to drive Apaches, Mexicans, and whites from the "hard, wild land known as Comancheria." Guinn also incorporates an intriguing subplot about Mochi, a Cheyenne woman and Sand Creek massacre survivor who's later accepted into the fierce dog soldier clan. Cash is no white-hat hero; he's often a vacillating opportunist who "had broken promises as easily as he’d drawn breath." Nevertheless, his flaws lend realism as he survives Adobe Walls and sets out for Arizona to find Gabrielle.

Few Westerns reach the level of Lonesome Dove, but Guinn’s latest is a better, more rambunctious tale than the trilogy’s opener.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-16542-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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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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