×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

A Guide for the Perplexed
     

A Guide for the Perplexed

5.0 1
by Dara Horn
 

See All Formats & Editions

The incomparable Dara Horn returns with a spellbinding novel of how technology changes memory and how memory shapes the soul.
Software prodigy Josie Ashkenazi has invented an application that records everything its users do. When an Egyptian library invites her to visit as a consultant, her jealous sister Judith persuades her to go. But in Egypt’s

Overview

The incomparable Dara Horn returns with a spellbinding novel of how technology changes memory and how memory shapes the soul.
Software prodigy Josie Ashkenazi has invented an application that records everything its users do. When an Egyptian library invites her to visit as a consultant, her jealous sister Judith persuades her to go. But in Egypt’s postrevolutionary chaos, Josie is abducted—leaving Judith free to take over Josie’s life at home, including her husband and daughter, while Josie’s talent for preserving memories becomes a surprising test of her empathy and her only means of escape.
A century earlier, another traveler arrives in Egypt: Solomon Schechter, a Cambridge professor hunting for a medieval archive hidden in a Cairo synagogue. Both he and Josie are haunted by the work of the medieval philosopher Moses Maimonides, a doctor and rationalist who sought to reconcile faith and science, destiny and free will. But what Schechter finds, as he tracks down the remnants of a thousand-year-old community’s once-vibrant life, will reveal the power and perils of what Josie’s ingenious work brings into being: a world where nothing is ever forgotten.An engrossing adventure that intertwines stories from Genesis, medieval philosophy, and the digital frontier, A Guide for the Perplexed is a novel of profound inner meaning and astonishing imagination.

Editorial Reviews

Jami Attenberg - New York Times Book Review
“[An] intense, multilayered story… Horn's writing comes from a place of deep knowledge…”
Andrew Ferman - Miami Herald
“Wondrous…a richly layered novel…. Horn has magically summoned the wisdom of the ages to address a most contemporary dilemma…riveting and suspenseful…. A novelist at the height of her powers.”
Elif Batuman
“It’s not every day you come across a genuinely page-turning kidnapping story that is also replete with historical, psychological, and interpretive insights into Maimonides, envy, and motherhood, not to mention replicating the narrative structure and central themes of the biblical story of Joseph. A Guide for the Perplexed is Dara Horn’s most ambitious, audacious, edifying, and entertaining novel yet.”
Jewish Daily Forward
“A Guide for the Perplexed is a richly layered book that leaves a reader…grateful and impressed.”
Boston Globe
“Dara Horn's fourth, and best…. [A] humane, erudite novel.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Horn moves seamlessly back and forth in time.”
Bill Goldstein - NBC's Weekend Today Show
“[A Guide for the Perplexed] is so beautiful, so mystical, so exciting… I really urge you to read Dara Horn.”
Geraldine Brooks
“Intricate and suspenseful, A Guide for the Perplexed is both learned and heartfelt, an exploration of human memory, its uses and misuses, that spans centuries in a twisty braid full of jaw dropping revelations and breathtaking reversals. An elegant and brainy page-turner from a master storyteller.”
Starred Review Booklist
“[Within A Guide for the Perplexed] beats the living heart of a very human drama, one that will have readers both caught up in the suspense and moved by the tragic dimensions of the unresolved dilemma at the core of the story.”
Tablet Magazine
“Horn is embracing her own, livelier brand of Jewish history, embodied in the joys of discovering-and creating-the past anew.”
Jewish Ledger
“Dara Horn’s writing never disappoints.”
Jewish Book World
“A spellbinding story… a novel of astounding imagination and profound meaning.”
Jewish Journal
A Guide for the Perplexed affirms Jewish survival.”
Howard Freeman
“Lends itself to meaningful discussion.”
Jewish Review of Books
“[Horn] is first, and foremost, a storyteller, yet these stories carry [her] readers higher and further [sic] than many of her contemporaries do with dazzling prose…its three hundred pages fly by…. Where Horn’s novel shines most, and most darkly, is in its central plot.”
Bill Goldstein - NBC's Weekend Today
“[A Guide for the Perplexed] is so beautiful, so mystical, so exciting… I really urge you to read Dara Horn.”
Publishers Weekly
06/17/2013
The latest novel from Horn (All Other Nights) is actually several books in one. One strand, a historical narrative set in 1896, depicts Cambridge professor Solomon Schechter’s discovery of the Cairo Genizah, a repository of thousands of documents in an old Egyptian synagogue; while another, set in 1171, recounts how the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote The Guide for the Perplexed, a book attempting to reconcile divine providence and free will, after the drowning death of his brother David. Lastly, the novel explores sibling rivalry, taking the biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers as a foundational case study. Josephine “Josie” Ashkenazi—the inventor of Genizah, a software program that comprehensively archives moments from its users’ lives—is encouraged by her envious sister Judith to accept a consultant position at the Library of Alexandria. Soon after Josie arrives in post–Arab Spring Egypt, however, she is kidnapped. When a video appears online of Josie being hanged, Judith moves in with her sister’s family, sleeping with her brother-in-law and caring for her six-year-old niece. If this sounds melodramatic, that’s because it is. Worse yet, there is something profoundly unlikable about all the characters involved. Still, Horn raises intriguing questions—including some of the eternal variety and others very much of this moment. Agent: Gary Morris, David Black Agency. (Sept.)
New York Times Book Review
“[An] intense, multilayered story… Horn's writing comes from a place of deep knowledge…”
Library Journal
Horn's latest after The World To Come is part thriller and part philosophical rumination on family and memory. Josie and Judith Ashkenazi have a long history of sibling rivalry that has intensified over the seven years Judith has worked for her younger sister. Josie's company produces Genizah, a Facebook-like digital archive that catalogs life in real time via cell phones, computers, cameras, and other personal technology. While working in Egypt as a software consultant for the Library of Alexandria, Josie is kidnapped. As the family deals with the aftermath of the kidnapping, the narrative travels back in time to Solomon Schecter's expedition to Egypt to investigate the Cairo Genizah. This enormous and unsorted archive was filled with both religious and secular documents dating back as early as 870 CE. Both the real and fictional genizahs raise questions throughout the novel about how and why we choose what to remember or forget. VERDICT Readers will be taken in by this literary thriller's fast-paced plot and complicated but well-imaged characters. Recommendations for readers interested in learning more about the Cairo Genizah include Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole's Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Genizah or Mark S. Glickman's Sacred Treasure: The Cairo Genizah; The Amazing Discoveries of Forgotten Jewish History in an Egyptian Synagogue Attic. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]—Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. Lib., MD
Kirkus Reviews
Horn (All Other Nights, 2009, etc.) is nothing if not ambitious in concocting this stew of Middle East politics, computer sci-fi, Jewish philosophy and romantic melodrama about a Jewish techno-entrepreneur taken hostage in post-Mubarak Egypt. The wonderful title comes from the 11th-century work by Maimonides rediscovered in the 1890s by Solomon Schechter of Cambridge University, who found pages of Maimonides' writing in an Egyptian synagogue storeroom called a genizah. Interwoven with a less than effective re-telling of Maimonides and Schechter's history, Horn's present-day fiction concerns the beautiful if geeky genius Josie, who borders on autistic in her lack of empathy for others. California-based Josie has invented a software program, not coincidentally called Genizah, which tracks and stores the moments a person is experiencing in order to turn them into a full memory of her/his life. Her company is thriving, and Josie is happily married to handsome Israeli Itamar. She chooses to ignore her 6-year-old daughter Tali's worrisome emotional quirks, perhaps because her own childhood memories include being an outcast among her doltish peers, including her older sister Judith. Judith's memories differ from Josie's--she is haunted by her mother's favoritism toward Josie and her inescapable role as the lesser sister. Employed by Josie's company, she is lonely and jealous that everything comes so easily to Josie. Then Josie is kidnapped while consulting with the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Believing Josie has been killed, Itamar and Tali depend increasingly on Judith, who blossoms into the loving person she always wanted to be. But Josie is not dead. She is busy creating a genizah so her Egyptian captor can recreate the life of his dead son. The philosophical questions raised are intriguing, if faddish: Is God omniscient? What is memory, and can it be trusted? What is the relationship between past and present? What is time dilation? The psychological plot concerning the characters is less captivating, although Judith is a standout. A work marked by brilliant conceits and clever plotting.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393348880
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/07/2014
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
335,364
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, is one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" and the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

A Guide for the Perplexed 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LaMere More than 1 year ago
A book of profound depth, character portrayal and plot interaction, this book will keep you mesmerized from the first paragraph to the last ...and beyond. This is another masterpiece by Dara Horn that weaves outstanding story-telling in the Yiddish tradition of authors like Isaac Bashevis Singer into a modern-day story of the age-old issues of passion, jealousy and redemption. Bravo to Ms. Horn for giving us a novel that begs for deeper delving into the story's literal and philosophical underpinnings of Maimonides. As with her other previous novels, this one takes on deeper meanings every time you read it.