A talent to watch, Patterson manages to travel broad swaths of history and geography while creating intimate moments with a...

REBELLION

Patterson’s debut novel sprawls across decades and continents, from the American heartland to the far reaches of China, to follow the lives of four women—some related more closely than others—who remake themselves as circumstances allow or require.

When 84-year-old Hazel goes into a nursing home in 1999, her children arrive to close up her farmhouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, and find relics of a past they can’t fully understand. Abruptly the story shifts to Illinois in the 1890s, as Hazel’s mother, Louisa, who has moved from Ohio to farm with her husband, receives letters from her sister Addie, who's living what seems to Louisa an exotic life in China with her missionary husband, Owen, and two sons. Another abrupt shift takes readers to 1998 China as recent college graduate Juanlan reluctantly returns to her provincial hometown to help her parents run their small hotel. While Louisa settles into a mostly contented life, the stories of Hazel, her aunt Addie, and Juanlan, whose physical connection to the others is slim at best, follow a similar thematic arc. Each recognizes that she may have more than one identity, each shrugs off passivity to take control of her life, and each is influenced by a deep relationship with another woman as she falls into an unexpected love affair. Respected widow Hazel carries on a long, secret love affair with her best friend's husband; dutiful daughter Juanlan forges a bond with her rebellious, pregnant sister-in-law while finding herself attracted to several different men; and most dramatically, Addie abandons her family to travel across China beside a woman missionary with whom she's fallen in love. Despite minor quibbles—at times Patterson gets stuck in the weeds of daily minutiae, and outlier Louisa, satisfied in her quiet life, remains undeveloped—Hazel’s, Juanlan’s, and Addie's stories could each stand alone as an involving novel.

A talent to watch, Patterson manages to travel broad swaths of history and geography while creating intimate moments with a refreshing lack of sentimentality; and the novel's sense of adventure makes it addictive reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-257404-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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