Author: Eishes Chayil
Publication date: September 14, 2010
Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where Brooklyn's Chassidim live, the rules of life – everything from how to dress to whom to marry – are very clear, determined to the last detail by an ancient script written thousands of years before. Then young Gittel witnesses an unspeakable act of violence against her best friend, Devory, an act that goes against everything she's been taught as a Jew. For the first time in her life, there are no guidelines to tell her what to do, so she remains silent. But even inaction has consequences, and sometimes they are deadly...
Now a teenager, Gittel is racked with guilt over the choices she made and those that were forced upon her by the community she once trusted. She must question everything about herself – her own innocence, her memories of the past, and the beliefs of her sect – to find peace for Devory and for herself.
Honestly, I almost put this book down after the first 15 or 20 pages because it just didn't interest me. Most of chapter two was spent talking about a hat, and filled with sentences that made me feel like I was reading in a foreign language, which left me disinterested and confused. But I made it over that speed bump and continued reading, and I am so, so glad I continued reading. This is easily one of the best books I've read this year.
Part one of the book alternates between Gittel telling the story as a 9-year-old and as a 17-year old, which I felt worked wonderfully as it let the reader get the background story on her childhood but also let us see the kinds of things she struggled with presently. Part two of the book tells about Gittel's life as she gets married and lives with her husband.
Not only did Gittel's story deal with heavy issues such as her best friend's suicide, the unspeakable violence that she witnessed, and her grief for many years to come, but it also took the reader deep into the inner workings of a culture that I knew almost nothing about before reading this book. It was fascinating just to see how children are raised in a community that has such a completely different way of life than most are accustomed to.
While the heavier issues took precedence, there were also many happy moments as it tells the story of Gittel growing up from a mere 9-year-old to graduating high school and getting married. I felt like the author managed to give the book a great balance of heavy subject matter versus everyday life, serious versus enjoyable, and it was all-around a well-written story. Overall, Hush is a powerful, unique book that will stay with you long after you've finished reading.
Overall grade: A