An intelligently executed tale, historically scrupulous and dramatically captivating.

HOW TO HUNT A BEAR

In this novel, a Jewish man whose family was driven from his Polish village by Nazis recounts his story to a historian in Tel Aviv who struggles to save her ailing marriage.

In 1939, when Itzhak “Ichu” Ozer is on the cusp of turning 7 years old, his family flees Tarnobrzeg, a small Polish village, when it is invaded by Nazis. The Ozers are deported to Russia and make their way to Lvov, a “ruin of rubble” from the war. Later, they are sent to a primitive work camp in Siberia. They are not free—they are “prisoners of the communist regime”—but they are blessedly alive, though they are made to suffer through the grim challenges of a brutally cold winter and a chronic scarcity of food. While in the Siberian labor camp, Itzhak is separated from Tzipke, the first love of his life and the girl to whom he promises himself in marriage. Eighty years later, Itzhak decides to tell his extraordinary story of childhood survival, one powerfully related by Shiri-Horowitz, and enlists the help of Maya Levin, a historian. She’s gripped by his experiences and draws strength from them as she wrestles with a marriage that has grown cold and full of distance and threatens to die. This moving historical novel flirts with sentimentality—an account of the possible reunion of Itzhak and Tzipke is gushingly romantic. Still, the author presents a story of the Ozers’ plight that is both historically exacting and literarily engaging. At one point, Maya asserts: “Every person has his own journey, each one challenging in its own right, but the journey undergone by Itzhak’s family taught me every day anew the meaning of fortitude and perseverance, and of the human need to care for our loved ones and those around us. And to live, simply to live.” This is a work that will be of special interest to those with a desire to know more about the plight of Jews in Poland during World War II and the hostility encountered by those who survived and returned.

An intelligently executed tale, historically scrupulous and dramatically captivating.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 979-8985179200

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Horowitz Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2022

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An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

MEANT TO BE

Giffin’s latest charts the course of true love between an American aristocrat and a troubled fashionista.

Almost immediately, readers will guess that Giffin’s protagonist, Joseph S. Kingsley III, a media darling since birth, is a re-creation of John F. Kennedy Jr. In addition to Joe’s darkly handsome good looks, there are many other similarities, such as his double failure of the New York bar exam and his stint as a Manhattan assistant district attorney. But Joe’s late father was an astronaut, not the president, and locations associated with the Kennedys, such as Hyannis Port and Martha’s Vineyard, have been moved to the Hamptons and Annapolis. Instead of a sister, Joe has a protective female best friend, Berry Wainwright. Readers may be so obsessed with teasing out fact from fiction, and wondering if the outcome for Joe is going to be as tragic as JFK Jr.’s fatal 1999 flight, that they may be distracted from the engaging story of Joe’s co-protagonist, Cate Cooper, who is—apart from a superficial resemblance to Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy—largely a fictional creation. When Joe and Cate meet-cute on a Hamptons beach where Cate, a model, is posing, both are immediately smitten. However, the paparazzi are determined to milk every ounce of scandal from the social chasm separating them. On the surface, Cate is the product of a middle-class upbringing in Montclair, New Jersey, but her interrupted education and her forced flight from an abusive home have shamed as well as strengthened her. Like her real-life counterpart, Cate rises in the fashion industry and becomes known for her minimalist style. The couple’s courtship drags a bit on the page despite witty banter and steamy encounters. It is the conflict brewing when their pedigrees clash, and, particularly, Cate’s consciousness of the disparity, that grips us. Whether these knockoffs can avoid the fates of the originals is the main source of suspense here.

An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-425-28664-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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