Wish-fulfillment for a blighted economy.



The parable of the Prodigal Son reworked as a parable for Corporate America.

Luke Crisp has always revered his father, Carl, self-made multi-millionaire founder and CEO of Crisp’s Copy Centers, a burgeoning chain of print shops headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz. Carl is grooming Luke to take over the company, a goal that Luke has worked toward since managing several Crisp’s locations as a teen. An MBA from the Wharton School, Carl decides, is just the polish his son needs. Luke reluctantly agrees. Once at Wharton, Luke falls in with a clique of East Coast sophisticates, led by Sean, dissolute son of a hedgie. Carl and Luke lose touch, as Luke embraces Sean’s hard-drinking, free-spending lifestyle. After graduation, Sean suggests a whirlwind tour of Europe, where only the most expensive hotels, restaurants and entertainments will do. Almost immediately, Sean, pleading momentary illiquidity, persuades Luke to tap into his million-dollar trust fund. When he’s forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to ransom Sean from casino thugs, Luke tries to escape, but one last Sean-fueled spending spree in Vegas instantly bankrupts Luke. Betrayed by friends and lovers and convinced that his father has disowned him, Luke joins the growing contingent of Las Vegas homeless people, until robbers take everything but his boxers. A passerby, Carlos, rescues Luke, providing him with a job and room and board at a nursing home. As Luke regains his self-respect doing menial chores, he takes a second job at the Vegas Crisp’s, wowing supervisors with his expertise in all things Xerox. Without revealing his family connections, Luke moves up at the store and wins the trust of a disgruntled colleague, Rachael. When, however, Crisp’s Corporate HQ abandons Carl’s philosophy of caring for employees and starts laying off people in Vegas before their pensions vest, the prodigal son must return. Although Luke’s downfall is a mesmerizing train wreck, his redemption is predictable and unearned. Worse, sentences like “Morning came early” abound. 

Wish-fulfillment for a blighted economy.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2800-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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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.


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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