Melodramatic, yes, but compellingly readable.

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THE ULTIMATE BETRAYAL

Fans of the Reverend Curtis Black series will rejoice with this latest installment of the extended-family saga.

Despite their spiritually rich environment, temptations abound for the members of the Deliverance Outreach community. This time, Curtis’ daughter, Alicia, takes center stage. Preparing to remarry Phillip Sullivan, assistant pastor of her father’s church, Alicia should be happy, particularly given that Phillip has forgiven her for ruining their first marriage by having an affair with Levi Cunningham. But as the nuptials approach, Levi finishes his prison sentence for dealing drugs and immediately contacts Alicia. Determined not to betray Phillip a second time, Alicia tries but fails to ignore Levi’s overtures. Maybe he's her true soul mate? But does that justify letting down not only Phillip, but also her entire family? Meanwhile, Alicia’s best friend, Melanie Richardson, discovers that her husband, Brad, has once again lost thousands of dollars in the stock market. He’s promised to reform, but he’s said that before. His late nights at work aren’t helping their marriage, either. To make things worse, Melanie’s mother—the delightfully rude and awful Gladys—relentlessly needles Melanie about her weight, cautioning her that Brad will stray if she doesn’t get down to at least a size 8. Soon Melanie finds herself slipping back down the rabbit hole of her childhood eating disorder, exercising twice a day, eliminating solid foods, and making excuses to keep others from guessing the extent of her problem. Roby (A Christmas Prayer, 2014, etc.) toggles back and forth between Alicia’s and Melanie’s stories, ratcheting up the tension as both women’s lives threaten to careen completely out of control. The writing is simple and clean though sometimes a bit saccharine. Nonetheless, Roby is a master of making a delicious mess of otherwise good, merciful, God-fearing people’s lives.

Melodramatic, yes, but compellingly readable.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4555-5956-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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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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A sadly slapdash World War II adventure.

THE LOST GIRLS OF PARIS

Fictional account of the unsung women operatives who helped pave the way for D-Day.

Jenoff’s (The Orphan's Tale, 2017, etc.) latest alternates between postwar America and war-torn Europe. The novel opens in 1946 as Grace, whose soldier husband died in an accident, is trying to reinvent herself in New York City. In Grand Central terminal she stumbles upon an abandoned suitcase, wherein she discovers several photos of young women. Soon, she learns that the suitcase’s owner, Eleanor, recently arrived from London, has been killed by a car. Flashback to 1943: Eleanor, assistant to the Director of Britain’s Special Operations Executive, suggests sending women agents to France to transmit radio intelligence on Nazi movements in aid of the Resistance and the coming Allied invasion. Women, she points out, are less conspicuous masquerading as civilians than men. A native speaker of French, Marie is an ideal candidate. After rigorous training, she is dropped into an area north of Paris, with scant instructions other than to send wireless transmissions as directed by her handler, Julian, code-named Vesper. For reasons not adequately fleshed out, Grace feels compelled to learn more about the women pictured and their connection with Eleanor. With the help of her late husband’s best friend, Mark, a burgeoning love interest, Grace accesses SOE records in Washington, D.C., only to find puzzling evidence that Eleanor may have betrayed her own agents. We hardly see Marie in action as a radio operator; we know of her transmissions from France mainly through Eleanor, the recipient, who immediately suspects something is off—but her superiors ignore her warnings. In any spy thriller clear timelines are essential: Jenoff’s wartime chronology is blurred by overly general date headings (e.g., London, 1944) and confusing continuity. Sparsely punctuated by shocking brutality and defiant bravery, the narrative is, for the most part, flabby and devoid of tension. Overall, this effort seems rushed, and the sloppy language does nothing to dispel that impression.

A sadly slapdash World War II adventure.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7783-3027-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Park Row Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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