Less convincing when striving for the epic, this solid novel achieves its strongest moments of emotional resonance in the...

SAFEKEEPING

An alcoholic who travels to Israel on a mission of atonement—to return a priceless brooch to an aging kibbutznik—is one of a disparate group of survivors with intertwined futures.

Hope’s debut, a saga of lives intersecting at Kibbutz Sadot Hador in 1994, accrues its momentum slowly, like a rolling stone. The story is spearheaded by 26-year-old Adam Soccorso, who has fled here from New York, searching for a woman named Dagmar, to whom his recently deceased grandfather had long ago tried to give a family heirloom, a medieval sapphire brooch decorated with pomegranates. Adam, a recovering alcoholic with some recent sins weighing heavily on his conscience, naively believes that handing over the brooch will make things right. The kibbutz community he joins includes international volunteers like him—including ruthless Ulya, from Belarus, whose goal is a glamorous life in Manhattan; and French-Canadian Claudette, freighted with her own long burden of misery—and locals like the musically talented Israeli soldier Ofir and Ziva, an elderly firebrand whose commitment to the original socialist ideals of the kibbutz has filled and shaped her life. They all carry a measure of suffering, and after giving plenty of time to each of their stories, Hope sets about mingling their various paths toward redemption. At a larger level, she uses the brooch to connect episodes of anti-Semitism down the ages. With its multiple mininarratives and characters who lack convincing depth, the story often remains earthbound; but Hope hits her stride as Claudette begins to outgrow her past and Ziva reluctantly embraces truths she has long denied. Not all the characters are granted absolution or even a definite fate, but the brooch ends up in the right home.

Less convincing when striving for the epic, this solid novel achieves its strongest moments of emotional resonance in the presence of its older female characters.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941493-06-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Fig Tree Books

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

WOMEN TALKING

An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014).

The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance.

Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-258-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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