Readers who like that sort of thing will like this. As for the others, well, you don’t need to be a fundamentalist to enjoy...

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THUNDER OF HEAVEN

Bad Arabs, steely-jawed Christians, evil Russkies, signs and portents from the Holy Land: LaHaye and Parshall, skilled packagers of prophecy, serve up Pat Robertson’s worst nightmare.

LaHaye (Luke’s Story, 2009, etc.), of course, has made a worldly fortune serving up visions of the end times with his Left Behind series, which one might have thought would offer the last word on the subject. But no: He left out some important twists on Revelation, namely a Russian-Islamic alliance that “only looked like a historic game changer,” a “global religious coalition for climate change” (evil, natch), and some inconvenient volcanic activity to pepper up the air while the forces of evil descend on Israel. Apart from that, it’s business as usual: The government is busy putting the mark of the beast on good Americans in the guise of a “biological identification tag,” and stalwart servants of Jehovah bearing biblically charged names such as Joshua Jordan (and, in the interest of gender balance, his daughter, who one wishes were named River) do their best to thwart Old Nick—and, for that matter, the Romanians. The story is predictable, the research loose, the errors many: There’s no such thing as a lieutenant major, not in this man’s army; neither is there a Dali Lama, unless the Tibetan Buddhists have appointed a cleric to oversee surrealist art; and bad old Islamicists would doubtless prefer to be grammatically correct when committing themselves to divine victory, Allah Ackbar. But no matter: This is no exercise in infallibility, but instead a by-the-numbers, fill-in-the-blanks genre thriller with all the usual cliches (“something grabbed her attention like a slap in the face”) mixed up with the first stirrings of the apocalypse.

Readers who like that sort of thing will like this. As for the others, well, you don’t need to be a fundamentalist to enjoy the end-days mayhem, but it probably helps. Suspending disbelief does, too.

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-0310326373

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Zondervan

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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