A page-turner illustrating the horrifying consequences of becoming embroiled in the American legal system, slowed by far too...

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THE TENTH SONG

An upper-middle-class Jewish family is thrown into turmoil when a father is accused of abetting terrorism.

Things couldn’t be more idyllic for the Samuels clan of Cambridge, Mass. Abigail is exulting in the pleasurable planning of a gala engagement party for daughter Kayla and future son-in-law Seth, two Harvard Law students with bright futures. But why is the caterer giving her the fish-eye? The news has hit the Internet: Suddenly the whole world knows that Abigail’s husband, Adam, a prominent CPA, has just been led, in handcuffs, from his Boston office by the FBI. The charge arose from the fact that Adam had steered some high-profile clients, including a former ghetto dweller turned celebrity entrepreneur, toward a hedge fund that, unbeknownst to Adam despite due diligence, financed terrorist operations. Seth, a controlling sort who pressures Kayla into straightening her hair and wearing pinstripes in order to better her chances with law-firm recruiters, insists that she distance herself from her father to avoid tainting her career prospects. Adam’s formerly close friends and even his rabbi shun him. On bail, awaiting trial and facing the loss of his hard-won reputation and prosperity, Adam grows increasingly despondent and rebuffs Abigail’s efforts to comfort him. Kayla impulsively hops a plane to Israel, and winds up on an archeological dig near the Dead Sea. There, amid a group of free spirits called the Talmidim, she lives off the land and studies with a charismatic guru, Rav Natan. She’s drawn to Daniel, an Israeli surgeon whose family was killed by a suicide bomber. Ironically, Daniel, with his contacts in Israeli army intelligence, may be the Samuels family’s salvation. Adam, alarmed by Kayla’s defection from the mainstream, sends both Abigail and Seth after her. Both will then experience epiphanies of their own. 

A page-turner illustrating the horrifying consequences of becoming embroiled in the American legal system, slowed by far too many weighty passages of authorial comment about the sad state of morals today.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-57017-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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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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