June 24, 2009

Who by Fire by Kiana Spechler

This debut novel, tells the story of Ash and Bits, a brother and sister whose younger sister had been kidnapped more than a decade ago. When their mother informs them that her remains have finally been discovered, it's up to wild child Bits to go to Israel and convince her now Orthodox Jew brother to come home for a memorial service. This is no easy feat as he's been out of touch with the family since entering the yeshiva.

The book is told from shifting perspectives, really getting into the minds of the various characters. I'm no expert on Orthodox Judaism, so I can't comment on how accurate the scenes in Israel might be, but I the information adds a great deal to the book. None of the characters are particularly lovable, but that won’t stop you from devouring this book. Each character is a bit (or a lot) like a train wreck; but in Specchler’s capable hands, the reader never gives up. I particularly love Spechler's conversational, down-to-earth writing style; she shows that humor has a place everywhere, even when dealing with heavy topics. I found myself imagining what happened to the main characters-the true sign of a great book. Spechler’s plotting, pacing, and writing all shine throughout the book.

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