An insightful tale of life both in and outside the United States.

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IN AN EXPATRIATE WORLD

Debut memoirist Hall recounts both the adventures and the quotidian details of his time living and working as an American in Belgium in the 1990s.

Hall and his wife, Cathy, were comfortable as Midwesterners, working for the American division of a multinational health insurance company. Then Cathy was invited to work on a branding project at the company’s Belgian office. Hall overcame his misgivings and agreed to make the move, and the couple packed up their Milwaukee life and set off for Europe. Hall’s portrait of Belgium is neither snarky nor starry-eyed; he acknowledges the challenges the couple faced in learning new languages, navigating unfamiliar roadways and being unable to watch the Packers play in the Super Bowl, but far more attention is given to the ways in which they adapted to their new environment, from finding an open grocery store to becoming regulars at neighborhood restaurants. Nostalgic techies will appreciate many of Hall’s anecdotes from the IT department where he worked: Windows NT is state-of-the-art, 512KB Internet speeds are something to aspire to, and a year passes before Hall convinces the company to let him build an intranet. Though there are some missteps in the writing—Hall’s attempt to render the local accent phonetically (“Yezz, auf cawrz. Many people ride them thayer”) can be grating—there are also plenty of sentences to admire: “I wouldn’t complain if it worked hard to turn our sullied linens pristine, but it acted more like a laborer paid by the hour,” Hall says of a recalcitrant washing machine. As he moves through elements including professional life, the search for housing and settling into an English-language church, Hall convincingly describes the emotional journey of an expatriate. The book concludes with the couple’s return to Belgium more than a decade later, as they discover that visiting a place is a far cry from making it a home.

An insightful tale of life both in and outside the United States.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Patrick J. Hall & Associates, LLC

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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