Inside the closed community of Borough Park, home to many Chassidic groups, the rules of life are very clear, determined to the last detail by an ancient script written thousands of years before--and abuse has never been a part of it. But when young Gittel witnesses the abuse her best friend Devory has been suffering at the hands of Devory's own family member, the adults in the community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. And even when the fallout reveals an unimaginable horror, the community continues forward as if it had never occurred. Now a teenager, Gittel's guilt over her silence forces her to question her own innocence, her memories of the pas, and everything she was raised to believe.
Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 10/10 (it is mostly a true story...)
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Total Score: 66/70
Obtained: Free ARC provided by publisher (WALKER)
Age Appropriate? R (Spoilers!)
Cursing: Very, very little (if any)
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: None, really.
Sexual Content: Yes. Vivid, if detached and unemotional,scenes, but with very little description.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Incestual rape of a child, graphic child suicide, depression. Some stuff of a sensitive religious nature (arranged marriage, radical beliefs, etc) which are integral to the story.
A great deal of the story is true. It's true, and that's what makes it so terrifying. It's a hard book to read, both powerful and disturbing, but also enlightening. This is the story of a girl whose lifestyle is so completely different from ours (or most of ours, I assume) yet she lives right in the heart of modern culture in New York City. She's so detached, so innocent, so naive, and just so lovable. Gittel captures the true essence of childhood--she's adventurous, stubborn, blindly accepts what her society feeds her, but at the same time quite the little rebel, and just so pure.
That is, until she witnesses something so horrifying, so unsettling, so uncomfortable that poor sheltered Gittel doesn't even understand. But we do. And that makes difficult to continue reading. But continue we must, because we can't just leave the story like that, can't just exit the scene at this integral, most tumultuous moment.
I wish I knew more about the Chassidic community. Even though this book taught me much about it (and not all bad, mind you) I still feel like having an understanding before delving into this story would have strengthened my understanding at the beginning, and added to the story. Eishes Chayil shows us her community as it is--no sugar-coating and without judgment on the religious customs. It's not a story about how wrong this ultra-Orthodox environment is. It makes no religious statements. It's simply a story about waking up to the faults within that environment and working to set them right, despite the risk. It's inspirational, something we can all learn from.
Jewish America: Chassidic Jewry
Hasidic Judaism - Wikipedia (maybe not the best source for information)