An engaging and uplifting tale in which two estranged friends wonder if they can fall in love again.

FINDING YOU

In this debut romance, the rebuilding of a devastated town may bring a long-sundered couple back together.

When huge portions of the town of Harrow Springs, Mississippi, are destroyed by a tornado, the call goes out for large-scale community involvement in order to assist with the daunting task of reconstruction. One such plea is delivered to this tale’s main character, Sara, by her friend Jamie. Jamie hopes Sara’s impressive organizational skills will help coordinate the various volunteer teams. Jamie’s own gift is for enthusiasm, so she convinces Sara to return to Harrow Springs even though the town is a source of painful memories. Sara was in love with a handsome man named Walt eight years ago and left town when he appeared to feel nothing for her in return. “Surely he’s married and has moved away by now,” she muses. “Surely he won’t even remember me. Just because I fell hard for him doesn’t mean he felt anything for me.” Unbeknown to Sara, Walt is also returning to help rebuild Harrow Springs. Soon, the two meet again, and each one’s fierce recollections of how things went between them often clash. “We’re a long way from that now,” Walt tells Sara at one point. “I’m sure you forgot all about that summer and that last meeting by now”—a moment that should cause readers to smile, since by then it’s become abundantly clear that she has thought about their fractured relationship every day since she left town. Eight long years and many questions separate them, and both are wary. But as Towery’s smoothly conceived and warmly written chapters unfold, longtime readers of romance fiction will have their hopes raised that these two will find a way to be together again. The author’s lightly overlaid element of Christianity will likewise reassure readers who enjoy such a facet in their romance novels. In addition, her handling of secondary characters is easily enjoyable enough to compensate for the essential lack of dramatic tension at the heart of her book.

An engaging and uplifting tale in which two estranged friends wonder if they can fall in love again.

Pub Date: April 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-973654-24-7

Page Count: 138

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2019

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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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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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