The Blood Lie

Shirley Reva Vernick
  • Review
By – November 7, 2011

Jack Pool has lived in the remote town of Masse­na in upstate New York all his life and, although he is Jew­ish, has always assumed that he and his fam­i­ly are ful­ly accept­ed by the com­mu­ni­ty. His father, the hard-work­ing own­er of Pool’s Dry Goods, the gen­er­al store, prides him­self on pos­i­tive rela­tions with all their neigh­bors regard­less of their reli­gious beliefs and, because of his mea­ger begin­nings, has pushed him­self to be suc­cess­ful and make a secure place for his fam­i­ly. Jack, a per­pet­u­al day­dream­er, is a gift­ed musi­cian; as a tal­ent­ed cel­lo play­er, he secret­ly desires entry to The Bent­ley School where he can gain enough con­fi­dence to enter a con­ser­va­to­ry in New York City and escape the steady but monot­o­nous exis­tence of small town life. When Jack turns six­teen on Sep­tem­ber 22, 1928, he wakes up to a day that should be full of promise. He has feel­ings for a young Gen­tile lady, the stun­ning Ema­line Durham, and plans to ask her to the school’s fall fes­ti­val dance. Emaline’s day starts out with a hike in the woods with her friend to look for her four-year-old sis­ter, Daisy, who has not come home. Think­ing that Daisy is being play­ful and hid­ing in the woods, Ema­line calls out to her sis­ter but she nev­er answers and is final­ly report­ed miss­ing. The local police begin an intense search and an assump­tion is made about Jack and his fam­i­ly. Gus, the police­man who over­heard a com­ment that Jack made about get­ting ready for Yom Kip­pur flat­ly states, That girl who dis­ap­peared, it’s the Jews…They have strange cus­toms for their hol­i­days. They use blood. Drink it and bake it in their spe­cial foods.” Jack, Rab­bi Abram, and the rest of the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion find them­selves under close scruti­ny and inter­ro­ga­tion. At one point, Jack is threat­ened by a rest­less crowd out­side the tem­ple and has to trick the crowd with the blow­ing of the sho­far to escape and find safe­ty at home. Although Daisy final­ly reap­pears, it is too late for Jack; he has been the pawn of anti-Semi­tism and real­izes that he will only find accep­tance in a more cos­mopoli­tan atmosphere. 

Based on an event that actu­al­ly hap­pened in 1928, Shirley Reva Ver­nick has skill­ful­ly woven a pow­er­ful sto­ry of sus­pense and ter­ror that would be a per­fect step­ping stone for dia­logu­ing about tol­er­ance. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 13 and up.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

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