Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman


SYNOPSIS

• Hardcover: 288 pages
• Publisher: Ecco (July 29, 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.




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REVIEW

A grandfather's stories.  They sound like fiction, but are sometimes more than that.  And there are things that Grandpa does not like to talk about.  But who could blame him?  

How much of what we experience is of our choice, and how much is fate?  Marjorie starts out believing the former, but through her grandfather's notebooks and written stories, starts to believe otherwise.  Marjorie's sister, Holly, has married an Orthodox Jew, and now answers to "Chava".  Nathan does not get along particularly well with the rest of his wife's family, in part, due to his religious views.

Ms. Feldman skillfully weaves an intricate tale of family, culture and belief in "The Angel of Losses".  The old maxim, "The more things change, the more they stay the same," is true also in this book.  Stories and legends of the White Rebbe seem to be playing out in the modern-day United States.  Marjorie is surprised with a secret from her grandfather's past that, in retrospect, explains some of his odder behavior.

I also think the line from Hamlet, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," (1.5.167-8) applies here.  Do you believe the stories and legends?  Do you discount them?  That is up to each individual.  But some things are more easily explained than others.

That's why "The Angel of Losses" is more than 'just a story'.  It may not make you question your beliefs, but it will make you ponder them.  And that is precious.


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AUTHOR INFORMATION




Stephanie Feldman grew up in Philadelphia and studied writing at the University of Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts,  and Barnard College.  She lived in NYC for 10 years before returning to the Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

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(Disclaimer:  I received a print copy of "The Angel of Losses" from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion.)

6 comments:

  1. I love books that don't give a straight answer to deep questions, but rather have you look at and examine your own beliefs. Sounds like this book does just that!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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    1. Exactly, Trish. Entertaining and educational!

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  2. Any book that makes you consider your beliefs is a worthwhile read to me.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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    1. Thanks for including me, Heather. It is always a pleasure to work with you and TLC.

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  3. This sounds like an interesting book! I love hearing about sister stories, seeing as I have three sisters myself. I think the first question you ask us that they all have different answers to is actually a very good one to ask.

    http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.nl/2014/08/angeions-book-review.html

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    1. I like sister stories, too! But I have no sisters IRL, unfortunately. But my brother is pretty cool. :O)

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