A sweet, sometimes zany message-centered tale; this is the first in a promised series chronicling the squeaky-clean...

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Big changes are in store for a TV news show after a religious young woman joins the team.

With sweeps week approaching, and a young punk of a boss demanding higher ratings, News Channel 7 producer Hugo Talley has no choice but to approach his diva anchor Gilda Braun about freshening up her look to bring in younger viewers. Humiliated, but reluctant to give up her post, the longtime newswoman succumbs to Botox, which does make her face smoother, but also gives her an unnerving perma-smile at odds with the serious reports she delivers. Unable to even furrow her brow, Gilda disappears, leaving Hugo to scramble for a replacement. Desperate, he turns to his new assistant, Hayden Hazard, a relentlessly cheerful and openly evangelical young lady with telegenic, wholesome good looks. One of seven home-schooled children from a family of professional clowns, Hayden is a hit with viewers, as well as with nice-guy reporter Ray Duffey, who shares Hayden’s beliefs, but is a bit more discreet about praying at work. It is Ray who finds himself the subject of one of his own news reports when a cranky interviewee attacks him on camera, to the delight of his ratings-starved manager. But something about the whole incident troubles Ray, who digs a bit deeper and discovers that his disgruntled attacker has connections to a wastewater treatment plant explosion and cover-up. The conspiracy is somehow connected to the missing, and possibly endangered, Gilda. Hayden, meanwhile, has a far-reaching effect on several of her colleagues, including the tightly wound Hugo, who realizes that all the anti-anxiety pills in the world will not fix the empty feeling in his soul. Gutteridge at times gently mocks Hayden’s spooky poise and socially awkward expressions of faith, but there is little doubt that she takes Hayden’s beliefs and values very seriously.

A sweet, sometimes zany message-centered tale; this is the first in a promised series chronicling the squeaky-clean adventures of the Hazard clan.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-7157-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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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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