Author: Stephanie Feldman
Type of book: Jewish mythology, Jewish folktales, hidden Jews, 2000s, marriage, conversion, sisterhood, Europe, hiding, brotherhood, siblings, angels, Wandering Jew, White Rebbe, New York, thesis paper, notebooks of stories
Year it was published: 2014
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.
Marjorie is a main character who struck me as an obsessive compulsive young woman whose life became Topsy turvy due to grandfather's death and her sister's conversion as well as marriage to a Jewish man. (The family had no idea they were hidden Jews...) I also think as a way of trying to hold on to her grandfather, she becomes obsessed with the White Rebbe, a mythical character that played in her grandfather's stories. For me personally she is not a likable character and she is kind of like Alice in Wonderland. Marjorie's sister, Holly/Chava, is married to a Jewish man and has decided to convert to Judaism. She acts as a mediator between her sister and her husband, often put in a hard place to choose whom she'll support. Eli is the girls' grandfather who hides a dark secret about himself and how he is related to Angel of Losses and who has passed away. There is also Simon, a secular Jewish man who seems to act as Marjorie's love interest.
I honestly have no idea what I should have learned from it, aside from the fact that knowledge has its consequences.
Most of the story is told in first person narrative from Marjorie's point of view, although the tales are told in third person narrative from a mysterious point of view. The reader really needs to be familiar with Jewish mythology/folktales in order to enjoy and understand the book, and they also need to understand certain myths as well, such as a myth about Joseph de la Raina being reincarnated as a black dog. I did appreciate the short stories much more than the main story, and the short stories did have the air of a Jewish folktale.
About Stephanie Feldman
Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and her daughter.
This was seriously the oddest book I've read. I think if more information about Jewish folktales were presented, then I doubt I'd have trouble with it. I sort of understand what the author was trying to do, but, well, I think more details are needed in certain areas: first of all, I didn't realize that the main characters had no idea they were Jewish because their behaviors can be seen as extremely secular. Considering that I had no idea they were hidden Jews, that added a frustration for me in trying to understand Marjorie. Also, I didn't really like Marjorie yet like it or not, you're stuck with her for almost the whole book and that might not be a pleasant ride. Also, Simon and Marjorie really lacked chemistry with one another and certain pages are blank on purpose, thus the book isn't defective. (In my copy, pages 244 and 258) I did enjoy Grandfather's stories and liked the atmosphere, but for those unfamiliar with Jewish mythology, more information is really needed.
This is for TLC Book Tour
Stephanie’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, July 29th: The Relentless Reader
Wednesday, July 30th: Sammy the Bookworm
Thursday, July 31st: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Monday, August 4th: A Night’s Dream of Books
Wednesday, August 6th: Book-alicious Mama
Thursday, August 7th: guiltless reading
Tuesday, August 12th: Back Porchervations
Thursday, August 14th: Spiced Latte Reads
Monday, August 18th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, August 21st: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book
Saturday, August 23rd: Another Clean Slate
Monday, August 25th: Fiction Zeal
Tuesday, August 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, August 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, August 28th: A Bookish life
Monday, September 1st: Based on a True Story
Tuesday, September 2nd: The Avid Reader
Wednesday, September 3rd: Ryann Dannelly
Friday, September 5th: Not in Jersey
Monday, September 8th: Read Lately
Tuesday, September 9th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, September 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, September 15th: Sun Mountain Reviews
Tuesday, September 16th: Must Read Faster
Wednesday, September 17th: nightlyreading
Friday, September 19th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, September 23rd: Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, September 26th: Cici’s Theories
TBD: Cosmos Mariner
TBD: Books à la Mode3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)