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THE GATHERING

MASTER EDITION: A METAPHORICAL ODYSSEY THROUGH THE SCRIPTURES

A colorful and engaging animal tale set in a biblical world.

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A Christian fantasy focuses on the days leading up to the Great Flood.

This elaborate tale features a cast of anthropomorphized animal characters: Judah, a lion; Sophia, a green serpent; Azel, a goat; Lumis, a wolf; and Eloshova, a black sheep. As the story unfolds, they’re all caught up in a vague mystical vision beckoning them across the landscape of a strange Old Testament world full of wonders and perils. They are trying to reach the Mountain of Gathering, where the mysterious call is drawing representatives of all living things on Earth in preparation for the Great Flood and the launching of Noah’s Ark. Milor deftly evokes this little-known world that would have existed in the brief interval between the opening of the book of Genesis and the story of the Great Flood. The conceit is brilliantly elegant in its simplicity, filling in a gap in the traditional biblical narrative with a modern-style, middle-grade adventure featuring vibrant characters, exotic locations, and plenty of exciting plot twists. These elements are guaranteed to hold the interest of young Christian readers already familiar with the famous stories of the Bible. Judah and his friends have distinct and sometimes clashing personalities. They must learn to overcome both their personal differences and the many obstacles Milor puts in their paths as they make their way across a realm the author very inventively imagines from the scant clues provided in the early sections of Genesis.

Each of the work’s chapters is accompanied by a full-color plate by debut illustrator Lopez, the author’s daughter-in-law, and is followed by an intriguing critical gloss by Milor. After a chapter featuring the villain of the piece, Nephram, for instance, the author switches his focus and pitches his commentary straight to his book’s adult readers. “Again and again, Nephram is completely baffled by what he sees concerning Judah and all the animals following him,” he writes. “In a similar way, the people of the world are often mystified by Christians, and either mock their faith, or rally against it.” At another point, when the heroes are temporarily lost, Milor again draws a larger lesson: “By providing a light to our feet, God is walking very close with us, and ensuring we stick by His side, rather than running off into the darkness ahead of Him, to places we are not ready to encounter yet. Every step we take, with the little bit of light that we have, is an active process of seeking.” These annotated sections, set off in a smaller type font, are clearly addressed not to children but to their parents and teachers as a guide to the tale’s many allegorical layers. The combined effect is ultimately winning: Adults will be as captivated by the commentary as children will be by the main story of courageous animals in peril.

A colorful and engaging animal tale set in a biblical world. (Color and black-and-white illustrations)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 237

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2020

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WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES

Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Hunter’s debut novel tracks the experiences of her family members during the Holocaust.

Sol and Nechuma Kurc, wealthy, cultured Jews in Radom, Poland, are successful shop owners; they and their grown children live a comfortable lifestyle. But that lifestyle is no protection against the onslaught of the Holocaust, which eventually scatters the members of the Kurc family among several continents. Genek, the oldest son, is exiled with his wife to a Siberian gulag. Halina, youngest of all the children, works to protect her family alongside her resistance-fighter husband. Addy, middle child, a composer and engineer before the war breaks out, leaves Europe on one of the last passenger ships, ending up thousands of miles away. Then, too, there are Mila and Felicia, Jakob and Bella, each with their own share of struggles—pain endured, horrors witnessed. Hunter conducted extensive research after learning that her grandfather (Addy in the book) survived the Holocaust. The research shows: her novel is thorough and precise in its details. It’s less precise in its language, however, which frequently relies on cliché. “You’ll get only one shot at this,” Halina thinks, enacting a plan to save her husband. “Don’t botch it.” Later, Genek, confronting a routine bit of paperwork, must decide whether or not to hide his Jewishness. “That form is a deal breaker,” he tells himself. “It’s life and death.” And: “They are low, it seems, on good fortune. And something tells him they’ll need it.” Worse than these stale phrases, though, are the moments when Hunter’s writing is entirely inadequate for the subject matter at hand. Genek, describing the gulag, calls the nearest town “a total shitscape.” This is a low point for Hunter’s writing; elsewhere in the novel, it’s stronger. Still, the characters remain flat and unknowable, while the novel itself is predictable. At this point, more than half a century’s worth of fiction and film has been inspired by the Holocaust—a weighty and imposing tradition. Hunter, it seems, hasn’t been able to break free from her dependence on it.

Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-56308-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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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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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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