It took me about 3 times longer to read this book than it should have taken, not because of the book just because I have not had more than 20 minutes to read in any given day for the past week. I feel a little like I did when I gave a not-so-glowing review to The Secret Holocaust Diaries that is that it is not quite PC to be critical.
That all said, this is an okay book. The author's note at the end specifies that "Eishes Chayil" (Woman of Valor, it's a psuedonym) is a member of a Chassidim sect and had a friend who was sexually abused as a child. As such, Chayil (for lack of anything better to call the author) writes with authority. The book was educational in that I knew almost nothing about Orthodox Jewish sects prior to reading and was astounded at the amount of control in the community and the extent to which it came across as a cult. Clearly, she is also standing up for abused individuals everywhere by speaking out. But, the writing isn't great, the plot is too contrived, the story is not really a story and well it's just a political mechanism.
There were several times where things were just unbelievable and contradictory. This is a very tightly knit, small community but then the rest of the kids at her school DON'T KNOW (until the one big mouth kid tells them) that Kathy the goy lives upstairs? She is not supposed to see the goy Kathy and all her goy stuff, but she does (frequently) and her mom continues to allow her to live there? Come to think of it, what is the purpose of the Kathy character anyway? She is the vehicle to get Gittel to the police, but then that is a dead end (was this supposed to be a plot twist?). As a nine year old in this small tightly knit community she is told of a wedding by a friend on the bus...really? She's never been to a wedding before? Even though they are one of the most important cultural events and her whole extended family lives within a few miles of her? I was also amazed at the speed by which Yankel jumps on board the Devory bandwagon. Gittel's mother still wants to ignore it all, but Yankel (a guy who has only known Gittel a few months and is ultra-conservative even for this group is ready to support his wife's fanaticism?). It just felt too contrived.
Overall, I learned a lot of about this group: I was amazed that people could be so removed from modern culture in the 2000s and that women would still be willing to work full time (for a measley $13K/year) and do all the housework/childcare to support a man who simply studies the Torah all day. Certainly it makes me glad that I'm not a Chassidim.