Adventuresome—but Merullo’s fans will still be waiting for that promised third installment of the Revere Beach Trilogy.

GOLFING WITH GOD

The author of two novels set around Boston (In Revere, In Those Days, 2002, etc.) switches to religious allegory.

The working-class Italian characters in Merullo’s earlier books would probably be startled to learn that “there are 8,187 golf courses in heaven” and that “God golfs.” Narrator Herman Fins-Winston is perfectly happy playing a few rounds and relaxing in heaven, but God’s game has developed problems, and He/She enlists Herman to provide a few pointers. That’s what Herman (professional name Hank Winston) did down on Earth as a golf coach after he blew a crucial shot and dropped out of the PGA tour in the 1950s. Some 30 mortal years later, he’s dead but still has unfinished spiritual business; God’s case of “the yips” (the inability to make short putts) is a pretext for getting Herman back to Earth to put him through a series of tests that, if he passes, will enable him to achieve his true destiny as a golf champion. The set-up is strained, but just as the reader is prepared to scream if subjected to one more accepting-the-divine-order-is-like-accepting-golf sermon, or another bizarre set of 18 holes with (for example) Jesus, Mary and Moses, Merullo partly redeems his story of absurdity by applying his wonderful skills of observation and reflection. Playing at elite courses like Augusta National, with God accompanying him in the form of an attractive young wife, Herman encounters compelling characters both human (an abrasive son and worried father) and semi-divine (a marvelously earthy “scout” who may be a reincarnation of Herman’s father). He learns something from each game, especially the one with Satan, and even his lust for God’s female body takes him closer to the “intimacy with the divine intelligence” that he really craves. Some fine prose and a genuine sense of spiritual longing make this better than the premise would suggest.

Adventuresome—but Merullo’s fans will still be waiting for that promised third installment of the Revere Beach Trilogy.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2005

ISBN: 1-56512-501-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more