Themes and Meanings
Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush is a novel about family—about its complex evolution, about the relationship between its past and its present, and about the identity that one person can gain through that multilayered history.
Tree Pratt is already older than her years when the novel opens, for she is almost totally responsible for her brother in her mother’s absence. She still has a lot of growing to do, however, and she does much of it in the short course of this novel. Brother Rush gives her the family history she never had, and through her trips with him Tree learns about her mother’s early life. In the midst of the crisis over Dab, though, Tree is not able to process everything that is happening to her, and she lashes out in a typically childish way, getting angry at Muh Vy and threatening to run away. Through the intervention of Rush, Muh Vy, Miss Pricherd, and Silversmith, Tree is able to work her way out of this emotionally difficult place and to feel better about her emergent family. Readers should feel good about Tree’s future as well, for she has navigated the shoals of adolescence and seems headed for a happier adulthood with a real identity and real strengths.
This is also a novel about family and family relationships. Few young adult novels have such realism or depth about family life and history. Readers witness the pain of Tree’s aloneness but also experience the joy of the new family beginning together at the end. Muh Vy’s love for her children is apparent, but so too is the abuse she was driven to as a younger woman. Likewise, Tree’s devotion to her brother is admirable, but she is also capable of selfishness, even in the moments of Dab’s sickness and death. The novel, in short, gives readers family life with all its warts, but not a few of its wonders. Here is a family unique in young adult fiction: single-parent, with a dramatic history, and with a future. The intensity of the relationships—the love between Tree and...
(The entire section is 810 words.)