Friday, January 16, 2009

Review: Who By Fire

Book: Who By Fire
Author: Diana Spechler
My short review – Interesting premise, Well Developed Characters, Compelling Story
My Rating – 3.5 Stars
When Diana Spelcher contacted me asking me if I would be interested in reading and reviewing this book, I was excited! Honestly. I had been reading rave reviews for this book all around and I definitely wanted to read it sometime. Thanks for sending me a review copy, Diana. I really enjoyed reading the book.
If you are a regular in the book blogging circles, you would have seen many reviews for “Who by Fire” already. And you might have also seen that all the reviews are positive ones (at least the ones I have come across). My blog is just going to join that list as well. I enjoyed reading the book and would definitely recommend it to others.
In case this is the first time, you are hearing about this book – then here’s a little summary of the book for you. “Who by Fire” is a novel about a dysfunctional family. And there is a root to the dis-functionality (If that is even a word). Many years ago, the youngest child in the family – Alena disappears. She is kidnapped while playing in front of her house. She never comes back. Diana very beautifully shows the effect of such a traumatic incident on the remaining family members. The father slowly detaches himself from his wife and his remaining two children and eventually just moves out of their lives to start afresh with a new family. The mother handles the sorrow of both – her daughter’s unexplained disappearance and her husband’s explained one – in her own way. Never mentioning anything explicitly, she makes the remaining children – Bits and Ash somehow feel guilty for the disappearance of their younger sister. Bits deals with the absence of parental love in her life by becoming something along the lines of a sex addict. And Ash deals with the guilt in his life by deciding to move to Israel and become an Orthodox Jew.
The thing that I liked about the book was the fact that Diana let the characters be real. They each have their own faults. They make mistakes. They are human. I couldn’t get myself to like either Ash or Bits but I loved the book and that has never happened to me before. I always thought it was necessary to like the characters and relate to them to actually enjoy the book… Guess I was wrong!
The book turned out to be quite a learning experience for me as well. I had no idea about the practices and beliefs of orthodox Jews and I learnt quite a bit from the book. I am still debating on whether to do the Jewish Reading Challenge that is currently in progress. But if I decide to participate in it, this would be my official first book for the challenge!

In case you are curious about the title of the book, here is the prayer that the line came from:

From the liturgy of the Day of Atonement, there is this prayer.
Rosh Hashanah is the New Year in the Jewish liturgy. The Book of Life
contents the fate of every sinner. Ten days later, at Yom Kippur,
depending on wether the sinner repents or not, his fate is sealed.

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed
How many shall die and how many shall be born
Who shall live and who shall die
Who at the measure of days and who before
Who by fire and who by water
Who by the sword and who by wild beasts
Who by hunger and who by thirst
Who by earthquake and who by plague
Who by strangling and who by stoning
Who shall have rest and who shall go wandering
Who will be tranquil and who shall be harassed
Who shall be at ease and who shall be afflicted
Who shall become poor and who shall become rich
Who shall be brought low and who shall be raised high.


bethany said...

Great review! I have this one on my RC shelf and am going to get to it soon. Thanks for your review, you did such a wonderful job with it. Well, you always do :)

Lezlie said...

I like when you do the "short review" at the beginning. That kind of thing is usually what I'm looking for, and you make it so easy to find! :-)


Jo-Jo said...

This sounds like such a good book...thanks for the review Ramya. And thank you for including the prayer, it really is beautiful.

Dar said...

I didn't read your full review as I've got this one coming up to read. I just wanted to see if you liked it and you did. I'll certainly be back after I've read it to compare notes.

Ramya said...

@bethany - thanks! that's a big compliment coming from you!:) love your reviews!

@lezlie - thanks for noticing it.. i started that this year and i wasn't hearing anything about it so i was going to scrap it soon. but now, i won't!:)

@jo-jo - it is a good book. It was much deeper than I expected it to be and I am glad you enjoyed reading the prayer.. It made so much sense to me when I read it and I definitely wanted to share it with all of you!

@dar - it is a really quick read..I am sure you'll breeze through it in a day or two.. let me know when you are done and we can compare notes! yay!

S. Krishna said...

Nice review! I'm hoping to read this one at some point.

bermudaonion said...

This one is in my stacks and I hope to get to it soon. Thanks for the review.

Pratima said...

Loved the review...very well written. Your reviews always make me want to pick up the books :)

Btw, wanted to know how u get these free review copies. I would love to read such new books..Any idea if I can get the same here in India too?

Diana said...

Thanks everyone! If you would like to feature Who By Fire or me (the author) on your blog, please email me: I'd love to hear from you!

Literary Feline said...

I really enjoyed this book as well. I learned a lot from it as well. I can't wait to see what the author has in store for us next.

I remember the first book I read when I realized I didn't have to particularly care for the main characters in order to like a book. It really changed the way I read and made me appreciate books I might not have otherwise.

Goms said...

Great Review! Love your added synopsis and the rating at the top. What is the jewish reading challenge you are talking about? would love to be a part of one in 2009.

Anna said...

I read this one for the Book Club Girl show and liked it a lot. I think the author did a great job with the characters. They seemed real to me, and that's what I liked best about the book. Glad you liked this one, too!

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

I havent had a chance to read this one yet., but it keeps me thinking about getting to the library or bookstore to get it.