A product less than a book; those with not enough time on their hands might spend what they have more meaningfully elsewhere.

THE TIME KEEPER

Treacly fable by pop inspirationalist Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, 1997, etc.).

Dava Sobel and Longitude be damned, God doesn’t like people who measure things. Six thousand–odd years ago—is the date a nod to Archbishop Ussher and his proto-creationism?—a fine young fellow named Dor invents the world’s first clock and is banished to a cave for the affront, since only the deity is supposed to be concerned with such things, it being the days before hourly wage work and lawyers who bill in 15-minute increments. Dor now sits in a cave, “listening to something. Voices. Endless voices.” And what do you suppose those voices want? Yup, time. More of it. Endless time. Or at least a year or two. Writing in his customary staccato (“But Father Time is real. And, in truth, he cannot age.”), Albom gives Dor a chance to redeem himself by instructing two hapless earthlings—a man dying of cancer, a teenage girl in danger of dying by her own hand—in the meaning of life. The Little Prince it ain’t: Albom seems to have taken the template for his novel from a corporate report, each page studded with boldfaced passages that would seem to signal something momentous; a person in a hurry could well read just those boldfaced passages and emerge with a pretty good idea of the storyline, which is plenty predictable in any event. Still, there are a few useful takeaways, among them these: If you’re moribund, a pocket watch will cheer you right up; if you’re worried about the prospect of imminent demise, then remember that, as the old dude who cometh from God’s side sayeth, immortality “is not a gift.”

A product less than a book; those with not enough time on their hands might spend what they have more meaningfully elsewhere.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2278-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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