A memorable story of a matriarch whose bravery and tenacity inspired her children.

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Heavenly Silence

RELIGIOUS ISLAND-STYLE STORY

An inspiring novel of a runaway’s journey through heartache.

In this novel’s introduction, the real-life Essie Brown’s son eulogizes her as a woman of sacrifice—a heroine who led a turbulent life until she found God and turned her life around. Her fictionalized story begins in Jamaica—a gutsy 14-year-old determined to make a life for herself, who escapes her resentful adoptive family and the arduous work they make her do. After she runs away from tiny Cascade to the city of Montego Bay, Essie hunts for work and soon finds a job working for the Ferguson family, baby-sitting their children and cooking their meals. She begins to enjoy her life in the big city, making friends and even finding a boyfriend, Stedman; then she gets pregnant and miscarries. Although she and Stedman are determined to stay together and have a family, she has another miscarriage and then another, and Stedman leaves her for her best friend, Cherry. Heartbroken and angry, she once again resolves to make it on her own and lands a job as a hotel chef. She soon finds herself pregnant once more, but this time, the father wants nothing to do with her, and she brings the pregnancy to full term. After a series of ill-fated affairs, Essie finds Tim Brown, a friend from childhood who now promises to be the first man to stand by her. But soon enough, Essie moves on and searches for a wealthy man to take care of her. This novel shows how, in the end, Essie’s journey and faith helped her grow strong and focused; she eventually raised eight children on her own, molding them into ambitious, motivated sons and daughters. She held her unwieldy family together with gumption, stoicism and a willingness to recreate herself whenever life proved difficult. Her determination is powerful, as is this fictionalized collection of key moments in her life.

A memorable story of a matriarch whose bravery and tenacity inspired her children.

Pub Date: March 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1483987279

Page Count: 274

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2013

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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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