Sunday, January 25, 2009

Who By Fire by Diana Spechler Book Review

The novel Who By Fire by Diana Spechler is a beautifully told story of a broken family struggling to come to terms with a horrible tragedy from fifteen years earlier. The story is told in three voices: a mother and her grown son and daughter who are all dealing with the abduction of their other sister. Each deals with his or her guilt differently. Bits, the daughter, turned to casual sex at a young age to fill the void of her loss. Ash, the son, jumped into one extreme lifestyle after another until finally deciding to move to Israel to become an Orthodox Jew. Their mother, Ellie, spends her time faulting her children for not being Alanna, her kidnapped daughter.

Although Who By Fire sounds extremely depressing, it is actually a very human book, with a heart-warming message about the endurance of family bonds in the face of adversity. Each chapter is told from a different viewpoint, really giving a great sense of the three main characters and of how complicated love and family can be. I particularly enjoyed the Ash/Asher chapters as I learned so much about life in a yeshiva in Israel. I wasn't surprised to read, after I finished, how much work Spechler had put into researching Yeshiva life as it really showed.

I was completely hooked by Who by Fire from start to finish. I cared deeply about the well-crafted characters and read feverishly to discover whether Ash would remain in Israel and whether this family would heal. I recommend this book if you're interested in learning more about Hassidism and Orthodox Judaism but also if you enjoy books about family.

1 comment:

deejbrown said...

Ah! Yes! A Lisa-writer-blogger....
This sounds like a great book! I think I will suggest it for the next meeting of my book club--thanks!