The Mystics of Mile End: A Novel Paperback – 19 Nov 2015
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“Rarely does one encounter a novel as full of charm and heart as Sigal Samuel’s riveting The Mystics of Mile End...A novel that takes up enormous questions - about the very nature of existence - with both profound intelligence and galloping humor. Before you crack open this book, be forewarned: You will fall in love.” (-- Joanna Rakoff, My Salinger Year)
“A remarkable debut where varying perspectives on faith, family, and the search for meaning are explored by characters brought to life with a profound sense of empathy for what it means to be human.” (-- Simon Van Booy, author of Everything Beautiful Began After)
“An absorbing tale of one family’s search for meaning, The Mystics of Mile End is a beautiful and at times heartbreaking read.” (- Anya Ulinich, author of Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel)
“This skillfully spun story forces us to look at life’s toughest questions, while we marvel at its everyday beauty and heartbreak.” (- Lee Woodruff, author of In an Instant and Those We Love Most)
“The ‘Mystics’ in Sigal Samuel’s charming and generous book may be found near the intersection of Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. This wonderfully self-assured debut explores the perils of faith and doubt.” (-- Adam Langer, Crossing California)
“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 Review)
“An inventive debut novel, “The Mystics of Mile End” by Sigal Samuel (Morrow) is set in the Montreal Jewish neighborhood of Mile End, with questions of faith, religion and identity swirling about, as each member of a family dabbles in the Kabbalah.” (-- The Jewish Week)
“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...the author shows with heart and insight that what we seek is often right in front of us.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Using a geometry of her own...Samuel draws a nigh-perfect circle in The Mystics of Mile End...that nourishes both the heart and mind. Samuel’s frugality in introducing characters and motifs results in a tightly focused and elegantly served novel that is something of a feast to read.” (-- Los Angeles Review of Books)
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
There's lots of good ideas, the Judaism and kabbalah related stuff is well introduced.
I felt that the unifying thread was sometimes left away for too long, to focus on specific characters stories.
i also felt that the quality of the writing style was unequal between the alternating characters. The first part, where Lev was telling his story, was my favorite one. It kinda reminded of Chaim Potok's novel Davita's Harp. Unfortunately I found the following parts a bit too artificially sophisticated and dull. It didn't sound "realistic".
I understand this is the author's first novel, and in the end I think this is not a bad first book and I enjoyed finishing it, even if the parts where David and Samara tell the story felt longish.
I'd accord the author here the same praise. A deft touch and just the right amount of heart.
The author has her own voice-but I'd be a poor reviewer without including comparisons. If you liked Kavalier and Klay or Fortress of Solitude, read this book.
Damn I'm pleased this book found me.
I was initially drawn to the book because of its title. Given the troubling state of our world, a little mysticism, with its promise of unearthing greater meaning and purpose, was an appealing prospect. On that score, I can’t yet say whether my expectations were met (hence the need for more study), but the work still satisfied on many levels.
Samuel’s writing is gorgeous, reflecting both setting and emotion.
“She died that summer and a yeasty silence filled the house and rose, inch by inch, until it filled the space between us.”
Her characters’ world is fully alive and developed. I felt like I was walking up and down Miles End—in fact, I wished that I could—as I read.
The book is written from multiple points of view and the first time I encountered a shift in narration I was unpleasantly surprised and jolted, having comfortably settled into the voice of the initial narrator. I hung on, though, and settled into the device as being one of insight as opposed to irritation.
Perhaps dealing with irritation and discomfort is the point. Figuring out life and our place in it is not easy, and the diverse ways we cope with it seems to me to be at the very heart of the viewpoints on display in the book.
Perhaps mysticism and Kabbalah can help, but there are no free passes on Mile End. There is a toll to be paid, and work to be done.
In the words of one of Samuel’s narrators, “To read Scholem [Gershom Scholem (1897–1982), author of Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, was perhaps the preeminent modern scholar of Jewish mysticism] was to run along a razor blade, its sweet edge cutting into me again and again. With every page I became more bloodied and more brazen.”
One need not worry about being bloodied reading The Mystics of Mile End, but prepare yourself to be pleasantly challenged.