Years-old murders spark racial tensions in the rural South in this latest from Kay (Shadow Song, 1994, etc.). In the small town of Crossover, events have generally abided by Logan's Law—the invention of Logan, a former sheriff who spoke of the ``law of the way things are.'' But it's now the late '40s, when the minds of many townspeople have been broadened by their war experiences, and the new sheriff, Frank, is more interested in justice than tradition. Events are set into motion when two 12-year-olds—Son Jesus, mature, mathematically gifted, and black; and Tom, imaginative, prankish, and white—try to run away from home. As they make their way downriver, self-consciously reenacting Huck's and Jim's roles, they stumble upon human bones buried in an old sawmill. The boys are eventually tracked down and returned to their families, but the bones turn out to belong to Son Jesus' father, who's been missing for a few years—one victim of three racially motivated murders committed, according to longstanding rumor, by a masked man known as Pegleg. As Frank investigates, he finds himself becoming enamored of the pretty young widow, Evelyn Carnes, on whose property the father was found and whose deceased husband may have had a role in the deaths. Meanwhile, Frank's dogged inquiries polarize racial sentiments in Crossover, testing the friendship of Tom and Son Jesus as they approach the end of childhood. The situation reaches a crisis when a local bully, Harlan, is accused of raping Son Jesus' sister Remona, and, shortly after, is found dead, an uncle of Son Jesus a prime suspect. Gracefully written, though the disjointed story, borrowing from such tales of childhood and race as To Kill a Mockingbird to Huckleberry Finn, never really gathers the momentum it should. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-688-15033-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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