Eishes Chayil's novel, Hush, is a serious YA novel about an issue that is real for many - too many- children.
Gittel narrates this story, alternating between 1999/2000 and the present. Now a teenager in an Orthodox Jewish community, Gittel is innocent in the ways of the world. Even icons like Oprah are unknown to her (she identified her as a person who sings opera - opera/Oprah ), and topics like s-x are definitely off limits. At the age of nine Gittel's best friend Devory dies tragically. Devory had a reputation of being a problem child. She didn't listen to what her parents told her to do, and often seemed as though she didn't hear others talking to her. Gittel has grown up with Devory and their families are good friends. When she stays at Devory's one night, she sees Devory's brother come into their bedroom and do something to his sister under the sheets. Gittel doesn't understand what has happened, but when she tries to tell Devory's mother about it, she is told that it never happened and that Devory makes up stories. Devory tries a variety of ways to call out for help, but the idea that sexual abuse could be happening in the home of a respected Orthodox Jewish family is unthinkable. Instead of getting help, Devory's cries get her into more trouble, until she kills herself.
Now nine years later, Gittel is visited in her dreams by Devory. Although she has grown up, Devory's death and what led to it continue to haunt her. Despite the fact that no one in her community wants her to speak of Devory's abuse, Gittel does try to tell someone what really happened to her best friend.
This is a heartbreaking novel. There were so many people who let Devory down, and at nine she did her best to get help, trying to find a way to avoid her home at bedtime, running away, and yet no one rescued her from her brother. Chayil's novel is based on the abuse she witnessed as a child, and brings to our attention the role of culture in how the crime of sexual abuse is treated.
While this is told in Gittel's perspective, I wondered while reading what Devory's suicide did to her brother, wishing that he would know that his acts essentially killed his sister. Wanting him to have to live with that knowledge and with the knowledge that he destroyed not only her life but his parents' as well. While he is a bit player in this novel - in terms of the amount written about him- he is a huge player in the events of this novel.
Hush has been named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and a William Morris Finalist