Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush

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Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush, by Virginia Hamilton, was first published in 1982. The estimated reading level for this book is twelve years old and up. Some of the issues examined in the book, such as child abuse, disease, and drug use, will be better understood by junior high age students. This novel would probably attract more female readers than male. The protagonist is a teenage girl named Tree who lives with her mentally challenged brother, Dab. She is responsible for taking care of herself and Dab. Tree begins to see a ghost who reveals her early childhood to her. Throughout the novel we see Tree’s struggle with what the revelations signify about her life as well as her daily struggle to keep her tiny family—namely herself and her brother—afloat. SETTING: The story takes place in the late seventies. Tree and Dab live in Detroit. The story takes place mostly in the home, as well as in the places Tree is transported to by Brother Rush. Their home is not described in great detail, with the exception of the little room where Tree sits to draw and where Brother Rush appears. Tree loves the tiny room and while in it she draws pictures of families, of space. The fact that she so treasures this small place of her own is revealing of just how cramped the living space is. CHARACTERIZATION: The characters are well developed and behave realistically. Rather than tell us what each character is like, Hamilton lets each character reveal itself through his or her actions. For instance, we learn that Tree is protective of her older brother by how carefully she takes care of him—as with helping him with his bath—as well as by the concern she has in cooking their meals. These descriptio... ... middle of paper ... ...rly revealing scene is when she hands Miss Pricherd the list of chores. We see Tree’s struggle to demonstrate her maturity and her power. It is thus fitting that we see her world through her eyes, as her emotional growth is the focus of this novel. PERSONAL RESPONSE: Initially, this novel attracted me because of the presence of the ghost. However, what I ultimately found most intriguing was not Brother’s ghostly visits but rather Tree’s struggle to take care of herself and her brother, her feelings towards her mother, and her attempts to make sense of her life after Dab’s death. In fact, despite the effectiveness of the ghost in revealing Tree’s past to her, I do not like this tactic. The text is very realistic—harsh issues are dealt with honestly—and I found myself being pulled out of the narrative at the mention of the ghost. It simply did not seem to fit.

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