Review: The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel
You don't have to know anything about Montreal or the Hasidim and hipsters who live there to enjoy Mystics; you don't have to know anything about Kabbalah or the Trees of Knowledge and Life to love Mystics; you don't even need to understand Yiddish or the importance of becoming a Bat Mitzvah to become entranced by Mystics. All you need is the love of a good story.
Told from four different perspectives, The Mystics of Mile End explores the ways in which faith manifests itself in everyday life and how it can both tear a family apart and bring it together. Each section of the novel moves the plot forward by a few years: we learn about David Meyer's conversion from religious Jew to skeptic and professor of Jewish mysticism; how his son and daughter both immerse themselves in religious practice only to then question it; and how the eccentrics, students, Holocaust survivors, and budding scientists of Mile End all observe and influence how this one family searches for meaning in a seemingly random world.
Each of the four sections is masterfully written in a unique voice that reflects the characters' personal struggles to find God and somehow reconcile themselves to their wife and mother's death years before. This is Sigal Samuel's debut novel, and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.