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Hush, Eishes Chayil

2011/05/10

In this novel, the author uses the unique voice of a young Jewish girl to address a shameful incident which is subsequently covered up by the close-knit religious community in which she lives. Through flashbacks, letters, and narrative, seventeen-year-old Gittel describes the guilt she feels over the death of her friend Devory at age nine, and the events which led up to and followed it. As Gittel finishes school and prepares for her marriage, she becomes increasingly haunted by her childhood friend, who will never have the experiences that Gittel is. The novel moves swiftly towards an end as Gittel attempts to find a way, any way, to put to rest the guilt and shame she feels.

Although the abuses in the Catholic church have been exposed and discussed in mainstream media, those in other religions have not been widely known. The author of this book, an anonymous Jewish woman, writes from her personal experiences and knowledge of the community and the culture which encompasses, and hides, it. In the author’s note, she writes, “We built walls, and built them high. The walls would keep the gentiles and their terrifying world far away. The walls would protect us and shelter us — and as we built them higher, thicker, wider, we forgot to look inside. We forgot that the greatest enemies always grow from within” (342). This is a message that crosses cultures and generations, and this particular novel is a well-written example of what it looks like this particular setting. An excellent companion to “Speak” and other novels of the type.

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