Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses
Stephanie Feldman
3 / 5

To Be Published: July 29, 2014

First Sentence
"When Grandpa came to live with us, he brought the White Magician with him."
Publisher's Description:
The Tiger's Wife meets A History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters

When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a magical figure named The White Rebbe, a miracle worker in league with the enigmatic Angel of Losses, protector of things gone astray, and guardian of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God.

When his granddaughter, Marjorie, discovers Eli's notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather--and her family--comes undone. To find the truth about Eli's origins and unlock the secrets he kept, she embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from 18th century Europe to Nazi-occupied Lithuania, and back to the present, to New York City and her estranged sister Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli's past.

Interweaving history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can-and cannot-escape..

Dear Reader,

This book...what DID I think of this book?  I have a hard time coming to any conclusions, because it is all still pretty muddied in my mind.  I loved a lot of the imagery Feldman employs; her writing is beautiful.  And the parts of the book about Marjorie, those that took place in the present day?  Those were really enjoyable to read.  However...I think I might have missed something with the White Rebbe stories.  They never really felt wholly fleshed out or complete, and I think that must have a lot to do with my feeling entirely lost when it comes to the Jewish faith.  I know very little about Jewish mysticism and the religion's stories and legends, and I felt like I must have been feeling so confused because of my unfamiliarity.  I can't otherwise explain why I didn't love those parts of the book as much as I thought I would.  Again, the writing in the four stories about the White Rebbe (I still am not 100% certain what a "rebbe" is...) was wonderfully done, and the stories danced along on magical writing just like my most beloved fairy tales.  However...there was just something that didn't quite fall into place for me.  I'm not sure I understood what it was that Marjorie was searching for, really, or how the White Rebbe and/or the White Magician (were they the same person?) related to her studies.  I wasn't sure how all of this related to her brother-in-law Nathan, either.  Or how and why they both thought they could save their loved ones.  It felt, essentially, like there was a lot left unexplained for me, and perhaps that might have to do with the magical realism of the book itself?  In which case, that is fine - I am just not much for that genre, and so I can entirely blame myself.  However, I have to emphasize how much I really did like Feldman's writing, particularly those parts which examined Marjorie's family life close up.  I would probably try another one of this author's books, provided it was a bit less heavy on the magic.  (Which is so funny, because I love sci-fi & fantasy books!  I just don't love magic being blended so closely into the real world, I suppose.)

On a slightly different note: I have to say, I really adore the cover of this book.  I want to frame that image, it's so beautifully done!

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