An exciting, distressing, and ultimately inspiring novel of hardship and family.

ESCAPE IN TIME

MIRI'S RIVETING TALE OF HER FAMILY'S SURVIVAL DURING WORLD WAR II

Lowenstein-Malz, in this middle-grade novel, tells the story of an Israeli girl discovering the history of her grandmother’s family.

Growing up in modern Israel, it never occurred to 12-year-old Nessya that her relatives had survived the Holocaust; it wasn’t something that was ever discussed. When she hears a rumor from a friend that her own grandmother, Miri Eneman Malz, is a survivor of that era, Nessya first attempts to covertly investigate her grandparent’s apartment, searching for letters or documents that might explain her past. When her unsubtle plan is discovered, Miri avoids Nessya for two whole weeks. But when Miri finally comes to visit, she brings the very documents that Nessya sought. The letters and diary entries detail Miri and her family’s many harrowing escapes as they fled Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust. As Nessya reads over the documents, she learns about the heartbreaking fate of Miri’s Jewish neighbors, who couldn’t foresee the coming doom; about the kindness of a few helpful gentiles; and about her grandmother’s parents and sisters, whose courage and ingenuity delivered them from genocide. The experience gives Nessya new insight into her own history and a glimpse into the pain and fortitude of her indefatigable grandma. Deftly translated from the Hebrew by Frankel and accompanied by lovely portrait illustrations by McGaw, Lowenstein-Malz’s prose is simple and elegant, bearing readers smoothly through the story’s multiple narrative layers. Befitting the book’s young audience, the author doesn’t concentrate on the subject matter’s more gruesome aspects, although she doesn’t whitewash the crimes and degradations, either; instead, she focuses on the luck and triumphs of the Eneman family and their cloak-and-dagger journey out of occupied Europe. She imbues her characters with great humanity, and many sections are heart-rending; one, in which a butcher named Yankel receives a postcard from his brother in the Bergen-Belsen camp, may bring tears to readers’ eyes. Such tragedy aside, the novel is an immersive page-turner, and readers of any age will find themselves flipping forward to see how the story ends.

An exciting, distressing, and ultimately inspiring novel of hardship and family.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0990843030

Page Count: 176

Publisher: MB Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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