illustration of main character Hannah opening a door which leads to a barbed wire fence

The Devil's Arithmetic

by Jane Yolen

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What is Hannah's relationship with her mother, aunt, and grandfather in The Devil's Arithmetic?

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At the beginning of the novel, The Devil's Arithmetic, Hannah Stern is ambivalent about attending Passover Seder dinner at Grandma Belle and Grandpa Will's house.

Hannah's father is the son of Grandpa Will and Grandma Belle, so this makes Hannah's mother Grandpa Will and Grandma Belle's daughter-in-law. Therefore, Grandpa Will is Hannah's paternal grandfather. Hannah's Aunt Eva is Grandpa Will's sister; she is also Hannah's favorite aunt because she is the only one who prefers her over Aaron, her younger brother. Aunt Eva helps both Will and Belle raise Hannah's father.

But Aunt Eva had preferred living with her brother, Will, and his wife and helping them raise Hannah's father when Belle was away at work.

Hannah later discovers that Aunt Eva is also known as Rivka. Many Jews changed their names after the Holocaust in order to forget the terrible suffering they endured. Aunt Eva also named Hannah Chaya in remembrance of the friend who gave her life for Eva during the Holocaust. Both Hannah's grandfather and grandmother lost family members at the concentration camps; Grandpa Will is especially prone to emotional fits because of the suffering he endured during the Holocaust.

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