Tugs at the heartstrings while bringing into focus a too often overlooked injustice in U.S. history.

GARDENS OF HOPE

In early 1940s Los Angeles, two men’s love for each other faces a further challenge when one is sent to a Japanese-American internment camp.

This historical novel opens in 1941, before the United States has entered World War II. For Jack Henry, life continues as normal—he works in his family’s jewelry shop, studies to become a teacher, and puts off his fiancee, Sally Jenkins, about setting a wedding date. In the dusky hours, Jack wanders the park in Pershing Square, a gathering place for gay men. But one evening he meets Hiro, a handsome nisei, or second-generation immigrant from Japan, whose humor and forthrightness stir in Jack far deeper feelings than the sexual thrills of his usual anonymous hookups. During one clandestine yet intimate date on Santa Monica beach, Jack feels more like himself with Hiro than he ever has. But their bliss is short-lived, as after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. enters the war and forces its Japanese-American citizens into internment camps. Jack turns his energies toward teaching at the Manzanar relocation camp, where he and his new love are reunited. But their relationship is now even more complicated, limited to silent glances under the watchful eyes of armed guards and 1 a.m. rendezvous in the pews of an unlocked church. Perronne’s (Men Can Do Romance, 2013, etc.) tale excels at capturing heartbreak both inside and outside of the camps. A scene of a Japanese woman choosing to break her family’s fine china rather than sell it before being taken away is as disturbing to witness as the dispirited suffering in the cold, dusty conditions of the desert prison. Considering the era, Jack and Hiro’s love is already star-crossed, and the impossibility added by the inhuman circumstances of the camps could easily have become crushing, but small moments of tenderness between the two mediate this hopelessness. The novel doesn’t lack self-awareness, with Jack probing his sudden empathy for Japanese-Americans and the prejudices they face as he wonders why it takes “us getting to know someone branded as other to view them with the humanity they deserved.”

Tugs at the heartstrings while bringing into focus a too often overlooked injustice in U.S. history.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-370-43374-2

Page Count: 271

Publisher: Chances Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 22

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more