In 2008, eighteen year old Gittel Klein is getting married. But her childhood best friend, Devory Goldblatt, are invading her thoughts and especially her dreams. Gittel witnesssed Devory’s sexual abuse by her brother, and at the tender age of 9, Devory hung herself in Gittel’s bathroom using Gittel’s favorite sparkly purple jump rope.
In any insular world, be it Gittel’s Brooklyn Chassidic world or the Church or another closed community, actions like these are swept under the rug, hushed up, never spoken of. And so it was with Devory. Gittel was afraid to say anything. Even at age eighteen, her fear of the devastation that confession would bring, stopped her from going to the police.
Devory’s parents had no idea how to control their ‘crazy’ child, a child who would go outside in her nightgown without shoes, who would show up at Gittel’s house and say she was sleeping over because there was no room in her house. The Kleins would call the Goldblatts and then drive Devory home, to certain abuse. And after Devory’s suicide, the Goldblatt’s relegated her body to a lonely corner of a far away cemetery and relocated to Israel–the shame being too much for them. When Gittel finally visits the grave several months before her own child’s birth, there is no pebble on the grave stone marking a visitor, as is the Jewish custom.
It took Gittel’s own pregnancy to empower her to speak out, take a stand, against the wishes of her family, her community and her friends.
Hush written by Eishes Chayil (meaning Woman of Valor in Hebrew) is based on incidents in the author’s life. Hush brings to light how amazing it is that in this enlightened era, the symptoms of abuse go unnoticed or unacknowledged. Rather, the victim is thought to be crazy or unbalanced and the perpetrator goes unpunished. The description of the abuse is probably about a page and is handled delicately. The remainder of the book goes back and forth between 1999 and 2008/2010, describing Gittel and Devory’s friendship in the early years and Gittel’s battle with herself and her family over her dilemma, her guilty conscience, her feeling that her inaction significantly contributed to Devory’s suicide..
Although Hush is not a riveting/can’t put it down book, it is worth reading because it highlights many culture’s reaction/inaction to sexual abuse. Definitely thought provoking.