cover image The Mystics of Mile End

The Mystics of Mile End

Sigal Samuel. Morrow, $15.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0062412171

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. David Meyer, a professor of Jewish mysticism, renounced religion; a few days later, his wife, an observant Jewish woman, died in a car accident. Their children, Lev and Samara, struggle to grapple with these coincidental events. Young Lev desperately tries to bring joy into his father's life, all the while hoping this or that woman will put the sparkle back into his emotionally absent father. Samara, too, gets caught up in Kabbalah and the biblical Tree of Life. Readers are then shown life through David's eyes as the academic subject he taught for years suddenly becomes a life obsession, with dire consequences. With the help of the everpresent anchors in the Meyers' lives%E2%80%94next door neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Glassman, Holocaust survivors with their own private agonies; and Alex Caufin, Lev's best friend, enamored of Samara%E2%80%94the author shows with heart and insight that what we seek is often right in front of us. (Oct.)