About The Mystics of Mile End• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 13, 2015)
Sigal Samuel’s debut novel, in the vein of Nicole Krauss’s bestselling The History of Love, is an imaginative story that delves into the heart of Jewish mysticism, faith, and family.
“This is not an ordinary tree I am making.
“This,” he said, “this is the Tree of Knowledge.”
In the half-Hasidic, half-hipster Montreal neighborhood of Mile End, eleven-year-old Lev Meyer is discovering that there may be a place for Judaism in his life. As he learns about science in his day school, Lev begins his own extracurricular study of the Bible’s Tree of Knowledge with neighbor Mr. Katz, who is building his own Tree out of trash. Meanwhile his sister Samara is secretly studying for her Bat Mitzvah with next-door neighbor and Holocaust survivor, Mr. Glassman. All the while his father, David, a professor of Jewish mysticism, is a non-believer.
When, years later, David has a heart attack, he begins to believe God is speaking to him. While having an affair with one of his students, he delves into the complexities of Kabbalah. Months later Samara, too, grows obsessed with the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life—hiding her interest from those who love her most–and is overcome with reaching the Tree’s highest heights. The neighbors of Mile End have been there all along, but only one of them can catch her when she falls.
I'll be the first to admit that I do not know a lot about Judaism or the different areas of belief within the religion, so I went into reading "The Mystics of Mile End" with an open mind, looking forward to an interesting story. What I didn't expect was to encounter a fascinating and intriguing tale that kept me enthralled to the very end.
Author Sigal Samuel divides her story of one family into separate voices that give each family member an opportunity to tell their side of the "story" within the story. The cast of characters featured here are unique and quirky, the premise of the story is unusual, and the storytelling is top-knotch.
I really enjoyed this family drama and highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a change of pace in their reading.
About Sigal SamuelSigal Samuel is a writer and editor for The Jewish Daily Forward. She has published fiction and journalism in The Daily Beast, The Rumpus, BuzzFeed, Tablet, The Walrus, Event, Descant, Grain, Prairie Fire, Room, and This Magazine, among others. She has been a featured writer at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival and a winner of Room’s writing contest. Her plays have been produced in Montreal, Vancouver and New York City, winning Solo Collective Theater’s Emerging Playwrights’ Competition and The Cultch’s Young Playwrights’ Competition.
While pursuing her MFA in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, Sigal won the Laura Fowler Award for outstanding women in the fine arts. She received the Lionel Shapiro Award and the Chester Macnaghten Prize for creative writing from McGill University. Originally from Montreal, she now lives and writes in Brooklyn.
Visit Sigal at her website and connect with her on Twitter.
My thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour and to William Morrow Books for providing the review copy. I was not compensated for my opinion.