A VIOLET SEASON

A mother and daughter discover empathy, courage and autonomy in this powerful first novel by Czepiel.

Set in the Hudson Valley in 1898, this brilliantly written story explores the lives and relationships of Ida Fletcher and her 16-year-old daughter, Alice, who exist within the confines of a restrictive society. Struggling to repay husband Frank’s long-standing debt to his older brothers, Ida and her family reside in a tenant house on the family-owned violet farm. It’s a bleak existence, and the family barely makes ends meet. Ida works as a wet nurse (in fact, she bore her youngest child, Jasper, in order to lactate), and Alice has been taken out of school to assist with the family income. Frank, a hotheaded, taciturn man, displays little affection for his family and expects them to accept his authority without question. After 23 years of marriage, Ida reflects upon their years together and ponders whether this has always been the case. Frank brings more babies into the household for Ida’s care, and he secures employment for Alice, which puts her in a precarious position and jeopardizes her dreams of a future with Joe Jacobs, the local preacher’s son. Frank’s actions result in life-shattering revelations for both Ida and Alice: Ida, her love for her children first and foremost, chooses to make a move that is almost unprecedented for a woman of her time and circumstances. And Alice, a strong young woman in her own right, must overcome her own past and learn to forgive her mother. A vivid portrait of life at the turn of the last century, the story is rich with historical detail and strongly defined characters. Czepiel portrays the often unpleasant aspects of Ida’s and Alice’s lives with reverential care and affords readers a finely tuned study in human endurance.

An excellent debut.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5506-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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