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Sharon Drache

Kingston (Ont.), Quarry Press, 1989. 208pp, paper, $11.95
ISBN 0-919627-27-7. (New Canadian Novelists series). CIP

Reviewed by Ian Stewart.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Sharon Drache's Ritual Slaughter is set in the fictional Hasidic community of Datschlav in rural Quebec. Datschlav is an ultra-orthodox Jewish community shunning the materialistic life of the outside world and its unbelievers. Datschlav is a closed community, a self-contained society of believers who maintain their way of life by a strict adherence to a set of rigid laws passed down to them by their spiritual leaders, the rebbes. For the secular person the arcane laws and customs, many revolving around sex, menses, and female cleanliness seem medieval in their obscurity. But, for the Datschlaver, evil exists in the world as an active force and is only constrained by these rules. The rules protect not only the individual's soul but the life of the community. Indeed, all Datschlaver communities worldwide are liable to corruption from the "evil one" if one community is deficient in its adherence to the form of the law.

Ritual Slaughter is a perceptive work on the nature of good and evil and the darkness that dwells in men's souls. With the publication of this novel a new star has risen on the Canadian literary scene. Datschlav and its people become a real community. Even though the lives of the Datschlavers is harshly alien to ours we gain an understanding and appreciation of them; and feel for the loss of their community. Yet, there is nothing maudlin about Ritual Slaughter. It is a work that is hard on the outside and hard on the inside.

Ian Stewart,Wellington School, Sioux Lookout, Ont.
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