While Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush is an exciting reading experience because of its occult elements and dramatic plot, the backbone of Virginia Hamilton’s novel is its characterization. The protagonists here are three-dimensional with a vengeance: Contrary and contradictory, they act in ways that reveal their true humanity.
Minor characters, understandably, have less depth. Brother Rush only speaks when he appears in the past, but his warmth and pain come through clearly in those trips. Dab is disabled and therefore limited as a character, but Tree’s devotion to her quiet brother is moving. Miss Pricherd is also a minor character, but in the course of the novel she is transformed from an old lady interfering in Tree’s routine into Tree’s means of getting out of her own anger and resentment. Finally, Silversmith is a strong, gentle man whose good qualities come through in a number of ways.
Muh Vy is a unique character in young adult fiction, and Virginia Hamilton presents her in a unique way, warts and all. For one thing, readers see Tree’s mother from several perspectives. She is not merely visible action and dialogue; in the trips Tree takes back into her own past, she becomes her mother, giving readers a double view of Muh Vy’s character.
Muh Vy’s strengths are clear, but it is her imperfections that make her so human. She has abused Dab as a baby, both by hitting him and by tying him to a bedpost to keep him in one place. When confronted by the knowledge Tree has gained through Brother Rush, Muh Vy can admit her mistakes to herself. As she explains to...
(The entire section is 660 words.)