Jerry hasn’t spoken since her mother disappeared. The 14-year-old has been labeled with “elective mutism”, and has been bounced from children’s homes to foster families until she is finally placed with her great-aunt in New Mexico. After exploring the old family relics in her aunt’s basement, the strange objects there seem to call to her. Upon handling them, she somehow relives her family’s past history and uncovers family secrets going back to the Spanish Inquisition. She finds out that she is from a long line of secret Jews, which explains why her aunt lights candles and prepares a special meal on Friday evenings without mixing milk and meat. By uncovering these secrets Jerry also finds her voice and begins to speak again.
While Lasky creates an interesting and likeable character in Jerry, there is some confusion about how Jerry is able to discover the stories of her ancestors. Is it a dream? Does she travel back in time? Do ghosts or spirits tell her? Or, do the stories just magically come to her? Additionally, while the family tree in the back of the book is helpful, the six different narratives from the past are difficult to follow and it is hard to figure out how they relate to each other and to Jerry. Several other novels tell the story of the Secret Jews (Secrets in the House of Delgado by Gloria Miklowitz and The Cross by Day, Mezuzzah by Night by Deborah Siegel, for example); however Lasky’s story attempts to bring the history to the present day. Ages 12 and up.
Rachel Kamin has been a synagogue librarian and Jewish educator for over twenty-five years and has worked at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, IL since 2008, currently serving as the Director of Lifelong Learning. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and past editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries News & Reviews, her articles and book reviews appear in numerous publications. She has been a member of the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Committee since 2021.