Uninspiring story with a not-so-hidden agenda.

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LIGHT OF HOPE

Have yourself a conservative little Christmas.

Vaughan, a prolific Christian author of manly historicals and military novels under various pseudonyms (including female ones, for his category romances), takes up several ultra-right and back-to-the-Bible causes in this low-key holiday tale. Should the Inuits and just plain white folks of Point Hope, Alaska (which might sit atop undiscovered reserves of oil), believe the scaremongering of Clay Berber, an untrustworthy, tree-hugging, pointy-headed activist who once fought to have the Ten Commandments removed from a county courthouse? Our hero, Galen Scobey, steps up to the podium with the real facts: among them, the infamous Valdez oil tanker disaster had no lasting measurable effects upon Alaskan wildlife or environment. Galen, a single father to young Nels, is still haunted by the memory of his dead but much-loved wife Julia, who loved Christmas. And he’s troubled by his own responsibility for an oil-search accident that killed two New Guinea natives several years ago. Heck, that pretty little teacher, Ellie Springer, isn’t going to charm him out of his holiday blues by holding a Christmas pageant at the Tikigaq school. And hasn’t she ever heard of the separation of church and state? He won’t let Nels perform. The dispute ends up in court, where a muddled defense avers that since the government is supporting “faith in atheism” by upholding the law, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating a religious holiday in a publicly funded school system. What a miracle: the befuddled judge agrees in an unlikely ruling on behalf of the pageant. What a hero: Galen, lost in a storm on the tundra, follows a brilliant star back to Point Hope and joins the rejoicing townsfolk.

Uninspiring story with a not-so-hidden agenda.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-765-30947-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2004

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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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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

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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