Alan Christoffersen, the author’s peripatetic ad exec, who is mourning his late wife McKale as well as the loss of his...

MILES TO GO

Second in Evan’s new series (The Walk, 2010, etc.) about an adman seeking redemption while going through several pairs of Nikes.

Alan Christoffersen, the author’s peripatetic ad exec, who is mourning his late wife McKale as well as the loss of his burgeoning career in Seattle, has vowed to walk all the way to Key West. At the end of the first book, our hero suffered a near-fatal assault. The present installment finds him hospitalized in Spokane after surgery for severe abdominal stab wounds. His sole visitor is a woman named Angel, whose flat tire he fixed shortly before the attack. When he is discharged, Angel offers him a room in her apartment, which he accepts, realizing that physical and seasonal obstacles will stymie his wanderlust until spring. Soon he learns that Angel, a 911 dispatcher, is hiding something. Her elderly landlord Bill keeps turning up when she’s not home, asking for “Nicole.” Nicole has cancelled her cable and given Bill notice she’s leaving the apartment. When Angel (admitting she’s Nicole) confesses that due to tragedies in her life she’s vowed to commit suicide after watching all 100 movies on the AFI’s “world’s greatest” list, Alan is able to share his secrets for self-healing. Soon the platonic pair have created an impromptu family, including Bill, a recent widower, that gathers for lovingly described holiday meals. But this idyll ends, as Alan must move on. Nicole will be fine thanks to Bill’s bequest of $3.6 million. (Overwhelmed by her kindness, he altered his will shortly before his death on New Year’s Eve.) Alan hits the road again, rescuing a runaway and calling attention to the problem of abused and neglected children aging out of foster care. In South Dakota, near mountain monuments to U.S. presidents and Chief Crazy Horse, the plot is once again left dangling from a precipice.

Pub Date: April 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9137-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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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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