27 October 2015

The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel

About the Book
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.

Sigal Samuel’s The Mystics of Mile End tells a fascinating and powerful story involving Judaism and mysticism. Though I’m sure I didn’t always understand completely the aspects of mysticism, I still could not put down this beautifully written novel with its richly complex characters. Dealing with various issues involving loss, grief, faith, and relationships, each main character reacts in a different way and undergoes unique development. All together, these characters offer an interesting story in The Mystics of Mile End, one that lingered long after I finished the reading of it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I received a copy of The Mystics of Mile End and the opportunity to provide an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all the opinions I have expressed are my own. To read other opinions of the novel, click here.

About the Author
Sigal Samuel is a writer and editor for The Jewish Daily Forward. She has published fiction and journalism in The Daily BeastThe RumpusBuzzFeedTabletThe WalrusEventDescantGrainPrairie FireRoom, 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.

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