Six little mysteries that quietly capture the breadth of the human experience.

THE MOUNTAIN

Tender, tinder-dry stories about lonely people making their ways through this life.

Yoon (Snow Hunters, 2013, etc.) created a minimalist story of astonishing austerity in his debut novel and largely continues in that vein with his new collection of sad stories. In the opener, “A Willow and the Moon,” an orphaned woman who grew up in a sanitarium in the Hudson Valley tells the story of her coming-of-age, her father’s abandonment of her, and a secret her mother nearly took to the grave. “Still a Fire” is a dual portrait of Mikel, a young man trying to survive in a European shantytown just after World War II, and Karine, the morphine-addicted nurse he meets after he is injured by a stray land mine. In “Galicia,” devoted wife Antje temporarily and impulsively leaves her husband to venture through the Iberian Peninsula with Félix, a handsome young man she meets on a train platform. “Vladivostok Station” is set in Russia and follows Misha, a young man who meets a childhood friend and subsequently reconnects with his father. In the title story, a young Chinese woman named Faye is persuaded by a stranger to return home to Shanghai, with very mixed results. In the finale, “Milner Field,” we get another travelogue about a divorcée and his beloved daughter, but one that mixes in tiny, heartbreaking moments of mortal tragedy. Yoon’s stories are never melodramatic; most of the time nothing much happens, really. But it’s rare to find a writer this patient, one willing to let the stories breathe and play out in their own time. Despite his literary austerity, Yoon’s dazzling use of wordplay, pacing, and the quiet authenticity of his characters to instill emotion in his audience makes him one of the most evocative writers working today.

Six little mysteries that quietly capture the breadth of the human experience.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5408-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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