From Dust, a Flame

  • Review
By – March 7, 2022

Han­nah wakes up the morn­ing after her sev­en­teenth birth­day to find that a fright­en­ing change has occurred in her body overnight. Her blue eyes have become gold­en snake eyes, slit and all. Anoth­er day, a tail appears; yet anoth­er, fangs. A moti­vat­ed stu­dent, who wants noth­ing more than to grad­u­ate with hon­ors and go to a pres­ti­gious col­lege, Han­nah is ter­ri­fied and at a loss. Her moth­er clear­ly has a past she is not eager to divulge; her father died years ago; and her car­ing grand­par­ents live far away. Hannah’s main emo­tion­al sup­port comes from her old­er broth­er, Gabe — a warm, car­ing, fun­ny, com­fort­ably gay young man who is will­ing to devote time, ener­gy, and intense devo­tion to a sis­ter who needs him. Even­tu­al­ly, Gabe must brave dan­ger and the unknown in order to sup­port Han­nah as her unex­plained symp­toms con­tin­ue to emerge.

Han­nah and Gabe’s mother’s mys­te­ri­ous past grad­u­al­ly begins to take shape as the secrets she has been keep­ing from her chil­dren — secrets that reach back through gen­er­a­tions, across oceans, and through the bar­ri­ers of the occult — are revealed one detail at a time. Filled with fan­ta­sy, super­sti­tion, and folk­lore, and with a unique­ly Jew­ish spin, From Dust, a Flame ven­tures into daunt­ing but fas­ci­nat­ing ter­ri­to­ry. Break­ing an ancient curse is a task that requires courage, deter­mi­na­tion, loy­al­ty, and love. Hannah’s awak­en­ing sex­u­al­i­ty, and stir­rings of excit­ing, new, bisex­u­al pos­si­bil­i­ties play their parts in Hannah’s devel­op­ment from shel­tered child to young woman who under­stands that there are hid­den worlds, yet unex­plored, that might change her life in ways she could nev­er have imagined.

An unusu­al book that inte­grates para­nor­mal occur­rences with Jew­ish his­to­ry and fam­i­ly dra­ma, From Dust, a Flame will com­mand atten­tion and main­tain sus­pense throughout.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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