|Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.|
Slooooooooooooow start. As in, so slow we might not have finished it if we hadn't been curious. At first the book alternates between 9-year-old Gittel and 17-year-old Gittel, and the voices aren't awlays distinct. We know something bad is going to happen (or is continuing to happen) to devory, and that the older Gittel is haunted by it, but the first part of the book seems to take a very long time to get there. Slow build-ups just don't work when you already pretty much know the end result.
Fortunately, things pick up about halfway through the book, around the time Gittel finishes school and her marriage is arranged. At this point the descriptions of Chassidic life become more a part of the story than lesson in culture, and the characters become more fleshed out. The story of her betrothal and marriage could be a book in itself - so sweet, at times funny, we finally got more than a snapshot of various characters' personalities. We also get a sense of the warmth and community that we appreciated - this is shown throughout the book, but especially in this section. Honest portrayals, no stereotypes. While an arranged marriage would horrify most readers, for example, we end up being very happy for Gittel, and we see how such a custom could still be embraced.
Of course, marriage brings to the forefront of Gittel's mind the things she has been trying to forget for so long. What happened to Devory, and the way the community handled it, has always haunted her: now it threatens to destroy her life and the lives of those around her, unless she can find a way to deal with it. We are glad we stuck with it through the slow beginning, and give it a
4 out of 5.