Devil's Arithmetic, The

Jane Yolen
This critically acclaimed novel by award-winning author Jane Yolen is now available in a beautifully designed new edition. Hannah dreads going to her family's Passover Seder—she's tired of hearing her relatives talk about the past. But when she opens the front door to symbolically welcome the prophet Elijah, she's transported to a Polish village in the year 1942, where she becomes caught up in the tragedy of the time. "Readers will come away with a sense of tragic history that both disturbs and compels." —Booklist

Reviews

Reviewed: 2016-06-24
I wasn't really sure what to make of this book when I first saw it, but after having read it, I would say that I am glad that I did.

This is one of those books that really makes you look at things from a different perspective. I can relate to Hannah, because I remember being 13 and having little patience with traditions and customs, and just wanting to hang out with my friends.

But given the experience Hannah had, she was able to see things in a new way, and was granted a gift, even though it was at a great cost, to be able to know and really understand her family's past and how they became who they are. And because of this, she gains a newfound respect and admiration for them, and her own life, that she might not have otherwise known.

This is the lesson that this book taught me. Yes, it was about the Holocaust and the epic tragedy that occurred, but I think it was more about understanding and respecting where you come from, and not letting trivial everyday teenage life get in the way of honoring your past.

***SPOILERS BELOW***

Ultimately, I gave this one 4 stars only because the book never really explained who/where Chaya was really.
With these types of books, where someone goes back in time into the body of another person, I always wonder where the person who is inhabited goes when the person who is inhabiting them is there.

Did Chaya die when she was ill, allowing Hannah to come back in order make her a hero to her Aunt? Or did Chaya sort of get shunted off to the side when Hannah took over, which means that Chaya had no choice in the sacrifice she made?

I hope the latter is not the case, although near the end it is mentioned that Hannah has 3 sets of memories -- of being in Lublin, of being with Gitl and Schmuel, and of her American family. It seems to me that Hannah should only have had 2 sets of memories if Chaya was not in there somewhere.

The last possibility is that Chaya was Hannah in a past life, whose life Hannah had a vision of (through Chaya's eyes, perhaps?) at just the right moment to attain the perspective she needed... Of the three, this is the most appealing to me, although some aspects of the story don't fit perfectly with this theory.

Overall, I am very glad that I read this book, and would highly recommend it.
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