Who By Fire
Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 7:24PM
[beastmomma] in 2009

I actually finished this book over a month ago while I was in India doing shopping to prepare for my wedding.  Since returning to the States, I have not had much time to compose a brilliant review.  In the interest of wanting to cross an item of my to-do list, I am going to crank out a review RIGHT NOW! Oh the pressure of spontaneous brilliance.

Here is a summary of the plot from the author's website:

Bits and Ash were children when the kidnapping of their younger sister Alena, an incident for which Ash blames himself, caused an irreparable family rift. Thirteen years later, Ash is living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, cutting himself off from his mother, Ellie, and his wild child sister, Bits. But soon he may have to face them again: Alena’s remains have finally been uncovered. Now Bits is traveling across the world in a bold and desperate attempt to bring her brother home and salvage what’s left of their family. Told from the alternating points of view of the three family members, Who By Fire is a searing commentary on guilt, grief, and the inescapable bonds of family from a fresh and extremely talented new voice in American fiction.

Even after all this time, I recall that I really enjoyed Who by Fire by Diana Spechler.  It was wonderful company for the long plane ride from London to Delhi.  Even though I had trouble with some of Bits choices, I loved how much she was driven by desire to connect with her brother Ash.  I also appreciated the complexity of their sibling relationship.   As an added bonus, I learned some additional information about the Jewish faith.  For example I had attended a Purim party prior to leaving for India, but I did not fully understand the significance of the holiday.  From reading about the holiday from the perspective of Bits, I understand more about the importance. 

Another thing, I related to in the book was the differences in the way the Mother related to her two children. Since I was immersed in intense family time, I was thinking a lot about how a past event impacts the way we interact with and treat each other.   The book has many scenes that illustrate the complexity of trying to remain close to our family members while still having guilt over past events.

I wrote about the book for two Sunday Salon posts.   I am also counting this book towards the the Orbis Terrarum challenge. 

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