Hush takes the reader into the Chassidic world through the eyes of Gittel, a young woman who is tormented by a childhood secret. The Chassidic world of Borough Park depicted in this novel is a complex tapestry. The reader sees a community filled with family love, a sense of commitment to others in the community, and dedication to the study of Torah. At the same time, woven into this community are strictly guarded religious traditions, rigidly enforced gender roles, deepseated animosity toward outsiders, and a too often unbending enforcement of norms even though the effect may be deleterious to some of its most vulnerable members.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and stepping into the joys of traditional observance and the warmth of the community while at the same time learning of its possible dangers. The book is both gripping and poetic.
The author, Eishes Chayil, is a pseudonym meaning “woman of valor” in Talmudic literature. The book jacket reports that she attended Chassidic schools, synagogues, and summer camps and is “a direct descendant of the major founders of and leaders in the Chassidic world.” She holds a master’s degree in creative writing and has worked as a journalist for several international Orthodox newspapers. She lives on the East Coast of the United States with her family. Acknowledgements, author’s note, glossary.
Carol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sciences Department and Professor of Sociology at the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York. Her areas of interest include the sociology of race and ethnic relations, the sociology of marriage, family and gender roles and the sociology of Jews.