Reviewed by Victoria Palamone
Ben Marcus’ new novel, The Flame Alphabet, takes place in modern day, suburban New York with a young Jewish family struggling to keep their family strong. He wrote this fictional novel because he was becoming a new parent and did not know what the future held for him.
Samuel and Claire have a daughter named Esther. They love her as much as they love each other, but their love will soon be stretched too far. Esther, like most Jewish children in the story, slowly kills her own parents by just speaking to them. Every word, even a simple “I love you,” cripples her parents until they lie in their death bed. Esther feels terrible as she watches her parents struggle to hide their weak muscles, pale cheeks, and bruises. As Claire declines faster than Samuel, he searches for a cure to end this epidemic, so he can have his family back. With the help of Lebov, a cult member that Samuel just met, Samuel creates a new language that is not lethal for Jewish parents. Samuel can now have his family back together now, but his new partner may have something different planned.
The Flame Alphabet was a challenging book and struggles to build momentum, but I think the story of the novel is a beautiful, heart-warming story about how strong a family really is. I would not recommend this novel for younger readers, but it is an excellent novel for mature, intelligent readers.
Victoria is a graduating senior in the Gifted program at Hahnville High. She enjoys reading, watching movies, and scrapbooking. She is planning to attend Louisiana State University next year and majoring in Veterinary Medicine.
Book reviews are published weekly in agreement with Hahnville High School gifted English teacher Deborah Unger in conjunction with the Brown Foundation Service Learning Program.