PASSING JUDGMENT

A wunderkind film director forced into early retirement becomes embroiled in old causes and ancient crimes in this too- tentative thriller from Omni editor-in-chief Ferrell (John Steinbeck, a 1986 YA title, etc.). Having distanced himself from Hollywood in the wake of a hushed-up scandal that threatened completion of his last picture (the commercially successful Moonstalk), world-weary Baird Lowen wants little more than to return to his Deep South roots, dabble in journalism, and fish for bass on his rural farmstead. But old high- school buddy Roy Duncan comes out of the past to pressure him into frustrating a blackmail scheme. An upwardly mobile attorney with gubernatorial ambitions and a pillar of the New Spirit for American Morality movement, Roy has received a pointed warning that he'd better withdraw from political life, complete with for-sale photos of his wife Ellen making whoopee with Baird when both were teenagers. Baird returns to Samson, N.C., in pursuit of the extortionist. Once back in his hometown (where New Spirit is headquartered), he finds certain of the natives surprisingly friendly—including Frederick Prescott, founder of the multinational ministry. As crafty and good-hearted as he is charismatic, the TV evangelist makes a low-key effort to enlist Baird in his crusade. Meantime, Baird manages to identify the shakedown artist, but before he can deal with him, the suspect (a ne'er-do-well classmate) dies in a fire that local authorities refuse to label suspicious. This dubious finding sets Baird off on another hunt, during which he takes some lumps from born-again heavies. At the close, he is off the hook, and the presumably culpable New Spirit disciples have either perished or been banished from Eden. A tepid, tedious tale that fails to capitalize fully on a potentially intriguing theme: apostles of the Religious Right finding themselves at odds with their own values as well as with those of secular society.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-86173-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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