Books with a Jewish theme intrigue me, and I was excited to read The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel. As I read the book, it reminded me of Bee Season and The History of Love. All of these books discuss Jewish mysticism, a topic which I don’t happen to know very much about.
“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.”
There are four sections to this book. The first is narrated by Lev at 11 years old. The second is narrated by his father, David, and the third by his sister, Samara. The fourth is in third person, and is about all of the main characters including Lev’s best friend Alex and Mr. Glassman. While the mystical aspects of the story were a bit hard to understand, the story of the characters and their relationships are all identifiable and readable. The family dynamics, especially the parts about how each member of the main family approached religion differently, made the story meaningful to me. The sibling relationship was probably my favorite part.
What have you been reading lately?