Fans of Bee Season and richly told stories of insular communities might well enjoy this one. Mile End is a Hasidic community home to the Meyer family. David Meyer is both a professor of Jewish mysticism and an unbeliever. Not so his daughter, who is secretly studying for her Bat Mitzvah. The neighborhood is well drawn and populated with vivid characters, including a neighbor who is building a Tree of Knowledge out of scraps of trash on his front yard. As both David and his daughter get drawn into Kabbalah, the story complicates and then satisfyingly resolves into an exploration of faith, family and community.
“With a refreshing new voice that has a dash of Anne Tyler and a sprinkling of Sholem Aleichem, Samuel explores the search for enlightenment in her standout debut. She follows one family’s obsession with Jewish modern-day mysticism, depicting a slice of life in a devout community and showing how people absorb tragedy and then rebel from or cleave to religion to help them cope with the day-to-day….[T]he author shows with heart and insight that what we seek is often right in front of us.”
— Publishers Weekly
Every character in this outstanding first novel is searching for a reason to exist…The need for human relationships and mysticism’s relationship to life impel them forward…This heart-stopping narrative will keep readers glued until the very end.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“A family is pulled to Jewish mysticism…in this expansive saga about faith, love, and loss…The minor characters, ever present in the background, shine as their stories conclude powerfully…A tale about the stories we let ourselves believe.”
— Kirkus Reviews
The Mystics of Mile End (9780062412171) By Sigal Samuel. $15.99 trade paper original. 10/13/15 on sale.