A devout yet deeply imaginative tale that focuses on the Apostle Paul.

A Time To Act

A debut novel fleshes out one of the greatest stories ever told.

Jesus is the foundation on which the New Testament is built, and it is his life story that both initiates and fuels the Christian Bible. Yet there is an argument to be made that the Apostle Paul—even more than Jesus—is the motor that drives Christian Scripture. No one writes more books in the Bible, and no one else is more responsible for both interpreting and shaping the spiritual messages of the early Christian church. Yet readers know little of the life of this biblical figure beyond a few scraps, and so many tantalizing questions remain. Who was this dynamo? What was he like? What drove the man who drove the growth of early Christianity? These and other questions propel this fictional extrapolation of the life of Paul—a 600-plus-page opus that puts flesh on the Bible’s bare-bones biography of this hero of the first-century Christian church. Readers get a glimpse of the author’s method in his retelling of the Scriptures’ first mention of the young Paul. In the book of Acts, Paul is present at the stoning of the Apostle Stephen—often considered the Christian church’s first martyr. In Acts, Paul is little more than a footnote, a “young man” at whose feet the madding crowd dumps its coats. In this novel, however, Shaul (Paul) is the instigator, the one who brings charges against Stefanos (Stephen) and who heaves the first stone. When the others throw their garments down, they do so as “a token of protection, ritually and publicly attesting to the chief accuser’s truth.” This is a clever move—and an ingenious reading of Scripture—but it also makes the young Shaul the captain of his own fate. Throughout this story—and others Knight (A Time to Hear, 2016) makes from whole cloth—Paul is an intriguing, potent, thoughtful force of nature, and readers will likely find that they cannot avert their eyes. The author leavens his thickly textured account with equal parts invention and respect. And best of all, he is true to the biblical original without slipping into a too-slavish devotion. Knight’s talent dazzles but never blinds.

A devout yet deeply imaginative tale that focuses on the Apostle Paul. 

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5144-4031-5

Page Count: 618

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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