From Andrea Kalinowski
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Title: The silent sister
“I know that the lies in our family hurt all of us, especially Danny and myself. Growing up in a household where something is terribly wrong, you feel the weight of that mysterious something even though it’s unspoken. It eats at you. Confuses you. It leaves you wondering if your view of the world will ever make sense.” The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain was an unexpected surprise hit with me. It was recommended to me by my sister-in-law. She could not stop reading the book and neither could I.
A young woman returns to her father’s house to clean out his home and to settle his estate. She thinks her only relative is her brother, who is perceived, by her and others, as being mentally ill. In the cleaning process, secrets of her sister’s suicide are unearthed and shed new light on the family dynamics. Lisa was seventeen when she committed “suicide” and it was this “suicide” which changed the family’s dynamic from a cohesive functioning family unit to a dysfunctional mishmash. Danny harbors his own resentments about Lisa’s familial role and the transformation that is wrought by her “suicide.” The discovery of newspaper articles detailing the real story behind the “suicide” set Riley off in search of the real story. The full scope of the deception forces Riley and Danny into a new and uncertain familial future. Our choices today really do have a ripple effect even though we may not perceive them clearly at the moment of decision. The Silent Sister was an excellent, suspenseful read. I give it four stars.
From Ginny Pisciotta
Author: Deborah Feldman
Unorthodox : the scandalous rejection of my Hasidic roots
Unorthodox is a gripping memoir of girl growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a member of the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism. Her father was mentally retarded and her mother left the sect when she was very young, so she was raised by her paternal grandparents.
Devoireh (Deborah) is an independent thinker and never fit into the lifestyle she was born into. As a child she would sneak into the library and bring home forbidden book “English” books which she had to hide. She had high hopes for her arranged marriage at age 17, but marriage brought a new set of problems. At 19, Devoirah gave birth to her son.
Devoireh managed to achieve more independence after they moved upstate where the Satmar community wasn’t so vigilant. She learned to drive and started attending classes at Sarah Lawrence College. She took more and more steps toward the life she desired for herself and her son, until eventually she left the world she grew up in behind.
This memoir was particularly interesting to me because it gave me an inside look at a community I only saw from the outside as a gentile growing up in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
The themes in this story are universal as many different kinds of people find themselves ill-suited to the culture or lifestyle they are in. Many have to make the decision between following their dreams or pleasing those around them. Many have to choose between thinking for themselves or letting others think for them. This a book that speaks to all these people, no matter what culture they are a part of.