HushHush by Eishes Chayil

A tense, gripping story that takes place in a closed religious community, where everyone believes that “those” problems don’t happen to them, that an unnamed abuse cannot exist, and that those who point fingers are the ones who are sick. The first part of the book alternates between Gittel’s childhood, before Devory died, and when Gittel is about to graduate from high school and become engaged. The suspense is maintained not because you can’t guess what will happen, but because of how it unfolds and how Gittel reacts. While intense, the story is not graphic – Gittel is a witness to the abuse, and suffers as a result, but the author never takes us into Devory’s experiences completely. Second-hand is intense enough.

In addition to the story of abuse, Hush is also a peak into a different way of life – a Chassidic community in New York. While some aspects were familiar to me (I read a lot of Chaim Potok in high school), this story is contemporary and from a girl’s point of view. I’ve always had a weakness for these kinds of stories, where you see a different way of life – celebrations, rituals, everyday things like what they wear and eat and how family dynamics work. For me, this aspect of the story was just as engrossing as the more suspenseful plot.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys a peak into a different way of life or an exploration of the way speaking out against abuse affects an individual and a community. Sometimes difficult to read, but also hard to put down.

Source: my public library

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Edited to add: Liz has a more detailed review, which was the first one I read, and Hush is one of the finalists for the 2011 Morris Award for debut YA authors.  The award is only 3 years old, but they’ve had some great books as finalists.  It’s a good place to check out new writers, and I love that they announce the 5 finalists in December so you have time to read a few before the winner is announced in January (along with the rest of the ALA youth media awards).  So far this year I’ve read Hush and Guardian of the Dead, and they’re both awesome in completely different ways.

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