Ron's Reviews > Who by Fire

Who by Fire by Diana Spechler
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's review
Feb 08, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: beatrice-reading-series, debut-novel, judaism
Read in February, 2009

This story is split up into three different family perspectives: Asher, a college dropout who's plunged into Orthodox Judaism and moved into a Jerusalem yeshiva; his older sister, Bits, who flies out to the city to bring him home for the funeral of their younger sister (whose body has finally been found after she was kidnapped more than a decade ago); and their mother, Ellie, who met a man in a support group who promises he can "deprogram" Ash from the "cult" he's gotten involved in.

Spechler balances the different voices effectively, each of them carrying their own emotional and mental baggage. Asher probably comes off the best of the bunch, and has the most realistic-seeming supporting cast around him; the mother a little less fully developed, but that may be just based on her proportional involvement in the story. The narrative near-misses until Bits finally catches up to Ash in Jerusalem are well played, and though the final section is heavy on the coincidences, it's handled in a way that works within the context of the fictional world, rather than just gratuitously mashing up all the leftover plot points in the last few chapters.
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