'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE

A LOVE STORY

Charming Christmas novel for cynics. Tom Douten (that is, Doubting Thomas) writes a column for the Chicago Tribune, usually a hard-hitting, often sad story about the poor and needy. He decides to attend an advanced journalism class at Northwestern led by Professor Noella Wright. The two are opposites in temperament: Noella’s an optimist, while Tom tends to seek the tragic. And she’s got a necklace with a platinum disc on where her birthday is inscribed as December 24th. She tells Tom that Santa gave her the necklace but made a mistake on that date. A doubting Tom decides he wants to research Santa, and gets his editor to finance a trip to the Black Forest (home of Kris Kringle) for an in-depth Christmas piece for the paper. When his small plane goes down over the Black Forest, killing the pilot and another passenger, injured Tom crawls through the forest until he passes out. After he awakens, he’s being cared for by Kris Kringle and his wife and helpers, the elves. Kris explains to Tom part of the mix-up about the necklace, then shows Tom how he makes the necklaces. Noella, meanwhile, thinks Tom is dead in the plane crash. Needless to say, things work out, and the reader may even come to believe in KK along the way. Part of the delight here is Tom’s analytical mind at work on what seems sheer fantasy: a love story not be left behind when orders for inspirational titles are filled out. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88176-7

Page Count: 209

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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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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