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The Mystics of Mile End: A Novel by [Samuel, Sigal]
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The Mystics of Mile End: A Novel Kindle Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Kindle Edition, 13 Oct 2015
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Length: 320 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled Language: English

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Product Description

Sigal Samuel’s debut novel, in the vein of Nicole Krauss’s bestselling The History of Love, is an imaginative story that delves into the heart of Jewish mysticism, faith, and family.

“This is not an ordinary tree I am making.

“This,” he said, “this is the Tree of Knowledge.” 

In the half-Hasidic, half-hipster Montreal neighborhood of Mile End, eleven-year-old Lev Meyer is discovering that there may be a place for Judaism in his life. As he learns about science in his day school, Lev begins his own extracurricular study of the Bible’s Tree of Knowledge with neighbor Mr. Katz, who is building his own Tree out of trash. Meanwhile his sister Samara is secretly studying for her Bat Mitzvah with next-door neighbor and Holocaust survivor, Mr. Glassman. All the while his father, David, a professor of Jewish mysticism, is a non-believer.

When, years later, David has a heart attack, he begins to believe God is speaking to him. While having an affair with one of his students, he delves into the complexities of Kabbalah. Months later Samara, too, grows obsessed with the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life—hiding her interest from those who love her most–and is overcome with reaching the Tree’s highest heights. The neighbors of Mile End have been there all along, but only one of them can catch her when she falls.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2520 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (13 October 2015)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers (AU)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00WR12MDS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #180,255 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Great story, loved it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasantly stimulating read 12 December 2016
By Mitchell Weitzman - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In a sense, this review is premature, but not because I have not finished Sigal Samuel’s layered, absorbing book about a colorful cast of characters grappling with faith, family, identity, and, yes, mysticism in a quirky Montreal community. Rather, I have only read it once, and much like the subject the book delves into—Kabbalah—this work requires the sort of study that requires multiple readings in order to fully appreciate it.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but kinda unequal 3 February 2016
By Stephane Wenric - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've got mixed feelings regarding this book. On one hand the overall theme is nicely presented, on the other hand I have the feeling that it sometimes lacks subtlety and lightness in the way it's written.
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Family, faith, and life 3 November 2015
By Honshin - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful novel exploring the challenges of family, faith, and life interwoven amongst the sephirot of the tree of life. The novel is told through 3 different personal perspectives and then from the narrators. I highly recommend it.
2.0 out of 5 stars No mystic in Mile End 25 May 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having been born in Mile End and having grown up in Montreal I was particularly interested in this book and looked forward to reading it. The characters were quite one dimensional. I sometimes ran into trouble differentiating between Alex and Lev. The author apparently took liberties with the neighborhoods, the idea of Alex, a gentile boy from Westmont befriending Lev in Mile End and taking kabbala lessons is a little far fetched. All of the characters seemed to be clinically depressed and overall the entire story was oppressive. Perhaps it is a reflection of the author's own life there, as she has escaped to Brooklyn.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointed 10 January 2016
By RDR - Published on
Verified Purchase
This book let me down. I felt the story rambled in some many directions (too many narrators) and the characters became more and more dislikable as the novel progressed. I was looking forward to some great descriptions of the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal where the story took place, but it felt like the author mashed places together and missed out on the real flavor of that part of town. If I had not paid for the book I would have put it down mid-read.