Monday, January 26, 2009

Book review: Who By Fire

If you've friended me on Facebook, you know I read a lot of books. My 30 minute commute is perfect for that. In the past month I finished Beautiful Boy, A Mercy, Jesus Land and Factory Girls, loving all but the last one. But I'm reviewing Who By Fire since it is the only book I read for a book club, and my book club is a bloggers' book club. Which means you don't have to take my word for it; you can see what a dozen or more women across the country have to say about Diana Spechler's tale of a family still reeling from the childhood abduction of its youngest member.

Who By Fire tells the story of a family torn apart by kidnapping from the perspectives of its two surviving children (both are now young adults) as well as their mother. Bits, desperate for affection and attention in the face of her family's loss, is self-destructive and promiscuious. Her younger brother Ash deals with his guilt by becoming an Orthodox Jew and fleeing a yeshiva in Israel. Their mother, in a desperate attempt to reunite the family, spins a web of lies and gets mixed up with an unsavoring guy who promises to "deprogram" her overly pious son.

The book reads like a mystery, something I wasn't expecting from a piece of modern Jewish literary fiction. As the plot thickened, I found myself sucked into the dramatic, if somewhat far-fetched story. I sped right through to the happy ending, which strained the limits of believability, tying up all the loose ends into one perfect bow.