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Hush by Eishes Chayil February 24, 2013

hush bookHush is story of Gittel Klein, a young girl living in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the largest community of Orthodox Judaism outside Israel.  From a very early age, Gittel has been brought up to become “Eishes Chayil” or a “woman of valor.”  This means following the strict rules of her community and becoming a wife and mother.  Life in this insular community is different, but it is all she’s ever known.  The novel takes us back in time as Gittel reminisces about her family, her neighbors, and her best friend Devory.  We follow her as she celebrates Purim, sneaks kosher candy-that may not be kosher enough, and listens to her father’s stories.

When Gittel is ten, she witnesses something terrible.  Devory is raped by her brother Shmuli while Gittel lies in the next bed. Unsure of what she really saw, Gittel is confused and upset.  No one, not Devory’s parents or her own, believe that such a thing could occur.  Devory’s erratic behavior continues to escalate.  Constantly trying to stay with Gittel, she is always forced to return home-where her attacker waits.  One day, Devory commits suicide by hanging herself in Gittel’s home.  A tragedy, this is all best forgotten.  Gittel is forced to put the memory of her friend in the past and move on with her life.  Devory’s family moves to Israel and life in Borough Park goes on.

Fast forward ten years and Gittel is now eighteen – graduated and married.  Attempting to push her memories of Devory out of her mind, she can no longer ignore her feelings.  The ghost of her friends begins haunting her dreams, forcing Gittel to confront the issue.  She risks everything by going to the police and telling them what happened to her friend all those years ago.  Why did this have to happen to Devory?  Why will no one acknowledge the ugly truth?  Will Gittel avenge her friend and lay to rest the nightmares she’s been carrying around for the last decade?

Hush is an incredibly powerful book.  The author, writing under a pseudonym, gives us a deeper look into the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.  I was entranced by the rules and rituals Gittel followed.  The author delicately describes the community, not holding back.  The sense of devotion is intoxicating while the extremities are at times alarming.  She was able to capture a complete picture of Chassidism, good and bad.  I was familiar with some of the rules, but what stood out to me was the role of women. Responsible for carrying on the traditions by giving birth, they are second-class citizens.  Gittel’s only option beyond marriage and motherhood is to become a teacher.  I was surprised at the level of glaring ignorance on the subject of sex and reproduction, not just from the women but the men as well.  Gittel’s confusion over what happened to Devory is compounded by the lack of information in the community.  They have no word for “rape” therefore it could not have happened.  Hush, don’t say a word.  It will all just go away.  Eishes Chayil has shed light on a darkness that is plaguing us all over the world, not just Borough Park.  No longer should victims be silenced.


Easy February 8, 2013

Filed under: Books — Jessie @ 4:36 pm
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Tammara Webber

After following her boyfriend to college Jacqueline finds herself single when her boyfriend of 3 years decides he wants to be able to be with other people. One night while leaving a frat party Jacqueline is attacked by a friend of her ex’s. luckily a mysterious stranger steps in and saves her from her attacker. As she tries to cope with being dumped and attacked Jacqueline starts to form a friendship with her economics tutor and the mysterious stranger from that night.

OMG this was a great book. It centers around the tough topic of rape but Tammara Webber does a great job tackling the topic. You can feel the horror and gravity of the situation but with characters like the hilarious Erin, it is easy to get through the hard parts. I think Webber did a good job portraying college life and the all too common rapes that occur.

Jacqueline was a really likable character, she was a smart, motivated and kind girl that got stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time and it is easy to sympathize with her. Although she had to deal with a scumbag like Buck she was able to keep moving forward and learn who she was and what she wanted.

Landon was the sweet and friendly academic type who was ambitious and a good student like Jacqueline. He was open and thoughtful and sounded like a great guy. I really liked him and for a while I wasn’t sure who I would root for, Landon or Lucas? Which brings me to Lucas, the tattooed savior that sits in Economics class and draws the whole time. Who wouldn’t want the strong, mysterious, tattooed, coffee-making, self-defense teaching, campus fixit, and brooding guy??

While the main events of this book center around the horrible subject of rape, this book is about empowerment.  Jacqueline is given tools, through a self defense class, and support, from her friends and the Greek Community at her school, to work through her attacks and to defend herself when she needs it.  This book also support the message that if someone is attacked it should be reported to the police and it is not the victim’s fault no matter what other people might try to say.  This was a great read and the Jacquelin/Landon/Lucas plot just made this book even better!