O’Malley manages to take some of the ugliest aspects of human existence and, through the magic of his words, infuse them...

READ REVIEW

THIS MAGNIFICENT DESOLATION

O’Malley (In the Province of Saints, 2005) crafts a sensitive portrait of lost souls who desperately try to reconcile their pasts with their current realities.

Duncan Bright is 10 years old in December 1980 and living in a northern Minnesota monastery with other orphans. He has no memory of the first years of his life, but kind Brother Canice, who constantly chews sunflower seeds, provides him with a story, which becomes Duncan’s mantra: Ten years earlier, the Festival of Lights Holiday Train became stranded in the midst of a terrible snowstorm. Many people in the area froze to death, including those on the snowbound train. Early in the morning, Duncan’s mother appeared outside the Blessed House of the Gray Brothers of Mercy and left him on the flagstone, then disappeared. She continues to inquire about him and loves him, but she feels he’s better off at the Home because she can’t take care of him. Duncan, who claims to remember his birth and the voice of God speaking to him, desperately dreams that one day his mother will come and reclaim him. He prizes an old transistor radio, given to him by Brother Canice, and he listens to recordings of the Apollo 11 astronauts at night—voices of men Duncan believes were doomed to never return to Earth. When his mother finally comes, she takes Duncan to San Francisco, where they live a bleak existence. Maggie Bright’s a former opera sensation who’s now a burned-out alcoholic who sings in a bar. Her boyfriend, Joshua, is a Vietnam vet, but the three scarred individuals draw comfort and a tenuous strength from one another. Haunting and dark, O’Malley’s narrative is profoundly moving. His characters bear the wounds of their imperfections, but no matter how hard they struggle to change direction, to reinterpret the past, the reality remains: They cannot heal themselves or each other.

O’Malley manages to take some of the ugliest aspects of human existence and, through the magic of his words, infuse them with beauty and light.

Pub Date: March 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60819-279-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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...

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?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more