"A remarkable debut where varying perspectives on faith, family, and the search for meaning are explored by characters brought to life with a profound sense of empathy for what it means to be human."---- Simon Van Booy, author of Everything Beautiful Began After
"An absorbing tale of one family's search for meaning, The Mystics of Mile End is a beautiful and at times heartbreaking read."--- Anya Ulinich, author of Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel
"This skillfully spun story forces us to look at life's toughest questions, while we marvel at its everyday beauty and heartbreak."--- Lee Woodruff, author of In an Instant and Those We Love Most
"The 'Mystics' in Sigal Samuel's charming and generous book may be found near the intersection of Nicole Krauss's The History of Love, Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, and Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. This wonderfully self-assured debut explores the perils of faith and doubt."---- Adam Langer, Crossing California
"Every character in this outstanding first novel is searching for a reason to exist...The need for human relationships and mysticism's relationship to life impel them forward...This heart-stopping narrative will keep readers glued until the very end."---- Library Journal Starred Review
"A family is pulled to Jewish mysticism...in this expansive saga about faith, love, and loss...The minor characters, ever present in the background, shine as their stories conclude powerfully...A tale about the stories we let ourselves believe."---- Kirkus Review
"An inventive debut novel, "The Mystics of Mile End" by Sigal Samuel (Morrow) is set in the Montreal Jewish neighborhood of Mile End, with questions of faith, religion and identity swirling about, as each member of a family dabbles in the Kabbalah."---- The Jewish Week
"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...the author shows with heart and insight that what we seek is often right in front of us."--Publishers Weekly
"Using a geometry of her own...Samuel draws a nigh-perfect circle in The Mystics of Mile End...that nourishes both the heart and mind. Samuel's frugality in introducing characters and motifs results in a tightly focused and elegantly served novel that is something of a feast to read."---- Los Angeles Review of Books
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.