A solidly uplifting story of a plastic surgeon seeking redemption.


The Rabbi of Resurrection Bay

An unexpected tragedy in the life of a selfish man leads to sweeping changes.

In his fiction debut, Goldsmith (Lost and Found, 2011, etc.) wastes no time in acquainting readers with the many personal shortcomings of one of his main characters, popular and successful South Florida plastic surgeon Marc Cohn, a narcissistic, unfeeling jerk. One positive force in Marc’s life, in the years before this story begins, was his wife, Cathy, beloved by everybody in her community. When Cathy suddenly dies of a brain hemorrhage, Marc is shattered—and left as the sole caretaker of their moody and problematic teenage son, Max. Marc is gingerly trying to reach out to his son (whose care he mostly left to his wife) when his brother Norman, a public prosecutor in Alaska, asks him to help cover the shifts of the prison physician. Transplanted and out of his element, Marc encounters Hannah “Chani” Weissfogel Kahn, the rabbi of Resurrection Bay, Alaska, whose back story readers get in a handful of slightly overlong early chapters. Gradually, in short and straightforward chapters told with a refreshing lack of artifice, Goldsmith expands the narrative as Marc and Chani begin to feel attracted to each other, Max starts to get interested in Alaska’s famous Iditarod race, and Marc decides to become involved in relief medical work in Africa. Goldsmith’s ear for dialogue is superb, and his careful plotting allows an otherwise slightly outlandish tale to unfold naturally. The subplot centering on Max feels a bit rote, but the story of Marc’s rediscovery of his own humanity—and the pivotal but unassuming role Chani plays in that process—is believable and absorbing, as are the book’s depictions of its various locations. In particular, Alaska’s vistas and people are evoked with obvious affection. The novel’s emotional payoff in its concluding scenes is smoothly and confidently orchestrated, emotional without being saccharine, and the expansions on Jewish life and culture never feel forced. This is an accomplished debut novel.

A solidly uplifting story of a plastic surgeon seeking redemption.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5150-9434-0

Page Count: 354

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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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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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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