A friend of mine recommended the book, “Hush”, to me. “It’s a must read”. That was all she said. When I googled the title, I was somewhat taken aback…..this was considered a “young adult” novel. Would it really hold my interest? As I read more about the book, I became more and more intrigued. “Hush” is written by Eishes Chayil. This is actually pen name of the author, and in Hebrew it means Women of Valour. “Hush” takes place in the Chassidic community of Borough Park, in Brooklyn. It is a window into a world I know nothing about. It is a coming of age story of a young Chassidic girl. It is also a story of abuse, and lies, and secrecy. Hmmmm….interesting…….
Gittel Klein is a precocious young girl living with her Chassidic family in Brooklyn, in the midst of the ultra-Orthodox, Chassidic Community. She and her best friend, Devory, live the lives that are expected of good religious girls, following the strict rules of schooling, dress, kashruth, and behavior. But Devory has a secret – one that causes her to act differently, to disregard the rules, to rebel. Gittel discovers what that secret is, but in her naive, childish mind, she doesn’t understand it, and she keeps Devory’s secret too. Until tragedy strikes.
What follows is the story of the lies, the denial, and the betrayal that come from life in this close-knit, closed religious community. Gittel’s story is told in the first person, and moves back and forth between the voice of the nine year old child, and then, the eighteen year old adult. The reader is given a first hand look into the traditions, values and rituals of the Chassidic community. I found it to be fascinating.
The author, whose real name is not known, is herself a product of the Chassidic community, and this story is based on things that she witnessed in her own life. It does not paint a flattering picture of this ultra religious life….rather it illustrates the insularity of this sect, the values held above all others. I kept shaking my head, thinking, how foreign this all was to me.
This is a great summer read. I read it in two days. I have to warn you, though, that once you start reading, the beds won’t get made, dinner won’t get cooked, the dog won’t get walked…..you’ll be transported to the world of Borough Park, New York. Then, you’ll tell all your friends to read it, so you can discuss!