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The Angel of Losses
     

The Angel of Losses

4.3 12
by Stephanie Feldman
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Stephanie Feldman's debut novel is a weave of Jewish folklore, mysticism, sibling bonds, and family secrets that has already evoked comparisons to The Discovery of Witches and The History of Love. It contains magical stories in a notebook left behind by an old man that, when discovered years later by his granddaughter Marjorie, open the door to new revelations about her sister and herself. A true discovery in several senses.

Publishers Weekly
06/09/2014
Sisters Marjorie and Holly Burke used to be best friends, before Marjorie got wrapped up in her dissertation and Holly converted to Orthodox Judaism—specifically, the orthodoxy practiced by a little-known sect called the Berukhim Penitents—to marry Nathan, with whom Marjorie immediately clashed. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, the sisters would listen to their grandfather Eli’s bedtime stories of the White Magician, a bearded wizard with piercing blue eyes. Years later, in the days following Eli’s funeral, Marjorie finds a marbled notebook filled with hastily scrawled writing in his hand. Its contents—part folktale, part biography—launch her on a full-tilt investigation of the notebook’s main character, the White Rebbe. In the process, Marjorie also learns about the Angel of Losses, whom the Rebbe is doomed to repay, and her grandfather’s secret past. Gradually, external forces humble Holly and Marjorie, paving the way for their reconciliation. This impressive debut from Feldman is a page-turner that celebrates sisterly love. Agent: Seth Fishman, Gernert Company. (Aug.)
—Molly Antopol
“Stephanie Feldman writes with tremendous warmth, tenderness and insight, and The Angel of Losses is a smart and beautiful novel that is all at once a literary thriller, a multigenerational family saga and a stunning exploration of Jewish mysticism. I loved this book.”
—Booklist
“Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman’s debut novel...the vivid, imaginative unraveling makes the investigative approach to reading this tale worthwhile.”
—Bookriot
“This book was amazing. The protagonist, a grad student in literature, uncovers a story scribbled down by her grandfather, and everything starts to unravel. Jewish folklore. Family secrets. Hidden identities. Hidden notebooks. Bitter estrangements. It’s beautifully constructed and just plain beautiful. Mark your calendars now, people. Mark them now. ”
—G. Willow Wilson
“Lucid, tender and masterfully portrayed, The Angel of Losses is an intergenerational story of perseverance and love in a changing world. Rich with Jewish lore and history, there is magic at play here in more than one sense. A must-read.”
—Sheri Holman
“Stephanie Feldman is one of the smartest and most original young writers at work today...With a deft understanding of the irreducibility of human relationships, Feldman leads us through love and loss and back to love again. Watch out for her. She is here to stay.”
—Molly Antopol
“Stephanie Feldman writes with tremendous warmth, tenderness and insight, and The Angel of Losses is a smart and beautiful novel that is all at once a literary thriller, a multigenerational family saga and a stunning exploration of Jewish mysticism. I loved this book.”
—Booklist
“Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman’s debut novel...the vivid, imaginative unraveling makes the investigative approach to reading this tale worthwhile.”
—Bookriot
“This book was amazing. The protagonist, a grad student in literature, uncovers a story scribbled down by her grandfather, and everything starts to unravel. Jewish folklore. Family secrets. Hidden identities. Hidden notebooks. Bitter estrangements. It’s beautifully constructed and just plain beautiful. Mark your calendars now, people. Mark them now. ”
—G. Willow Wilson
“Lucid, tender and masterfully portrayed, The Angel of Losses is an intergenerational story of perseverance and love in a changing world. Rich with Jewish lore and history, there is magic at play here in more than one sense. A must-read.”
—Sheri Holman
“Stephanie Feldman is one of the smartest and most original young writers at work today...With a deft understanding of the irreducibility of human relationships, Feldman leads us through love and loss and back to love again. Watch out for her. She is here to stay.”
Washington Post
“This imaginative first novel leads you on a journey of fantastic tales, stormy family ties and a tragic discovery of redemption that will break your heart.”
New York Journal of Books
“Feldman’s prose is intelligent, engaging, and at times figurative... a versatile virtuosity impressive for a debut work.”
NPR: All Things Considered
“Feldman is an ambitious writer who conjures up instead a deeply moving modern-day fable that far transcends the boundaries of its location and time.”
BookPage
The Angel of Losses is an ambitious work by a brilliant new author.
Ploughshares
“In her spellbinding debut novel, Stephanie Feldman tells an epic tale of mystery, discovery, and familial love…Feldman’s debut novel is moving, mature, and deeply original.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Stephanie Feldman’s debut novel, The Angel of Losses, is haunting. Even more gripping than the real and imagined folktales that Feldman weaves into the book, however, is her exploration of sisterly rifts and bonds and family secrets shrouded by time.”
Book Riot
“It’s beautifully constructed and just plain beautiful.”
Sheri Holman
“Stephanie Feldman is one of the smartest and most original young writers at work today...With a deft understanding of the irreducibility of human relationships, Feldman leads us through love and loss and back to love again. Watch out for her. She is here to stay.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-19
Figures from Jewish mysticism and mythology, a Russian grandfather's legacy and the fate of a newborn child entwine in an inventive if at times obscure debut.With its wheeling stars, magical rabbi, disgraced angels, black dogs and European hinterland, Feldman's novel—though set substantially in contemporary New York—has the flavor of Chagall's visionary art. Its central characters are previously devoted sisters Marjorie and Holly Burke, whose close relationship has been disrupted by Holly's unexpected marriage to an orthodox Jew, Nathan. Marjorie, the studious one, is working on a Ph.D. about the Wandering Jew, while Holly has given birth to her first child, Eli, named after the girls' grandfather (who died recently, and to whom Marjorie was especially close). Searching through old Eli's possessions, Marjorie finds one of four notebooks in which he wrote stories of the White Rebbe, a religious guru of great stature who carries the Sabbath Light and owes a promise to the Angel of Losses. While seeking the other three books, Marjorie meets Simon, another student doing research in a similar area, who will become her lover; she also repeatedly encounters a strange, possibly sinister elderly man with piercing blue eyes who gives her an amulet and seems to know a lot about old Eli. As Marjorie learns the truth about her grandfather's tragic past, young Eli falls gravely ill and Nathan disappears. By turns gothic, heart-rending and impenetrable, Feldman's story sometimes seems too wrapped up in its theology but eventually reaches a cosmic climax in which Marjorie embraces her destiny while re-establishing her connection to Holly.Readers may enjoy this two-tier story more for its accessible romantic and family dramas than its convoluted religious arcana, but Feldman devotes passionate storytelling and powerful narrative skills to both.
Library Journal
05/15/2014
Marjorie, a literary scholar studying the Wandering Jew archetype, has a strained relationship with her sister Holly, who has married an Orthodox Jew belonging to a mysterious sect. While sorting through her deceased grandfather's belongings, Marjorie discovers a notebook containing a tale about a white rebbe tormented and haunted by an angel; the story not only parallels her own research but may be connected to her grandfather's unspoken past. As she searches for three missing companion notebooks and draws connections with the help of a librarian with whom she becomes romantically involved, Marjorie discovers that her brother-in-law Nathan is on a similar quest. VERDICT Feldman's debut novel is an unusual combination of literary thriller, family drama, and Jewish mysticism, but the pieces fit together somewhat uneasily, with the reader unsure how literally to take the supernatural elements. Fans of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian or the works of Lev Grossman will find something here in a similar vein, but with a little quieter pacing and a little more spirituality.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062228918
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/29/2014
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,292,566
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Feldman is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and her daughter.

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The Angel of Losses 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
M_Pentecost More than 1 year ago
This is a truly stunning book! Feldman manages to weave a complex plot that encompasses family drama, Jewish mysticism and folklore, and mystery, but it never felt like any of the various plot threads were given short shrift--everything tied together breathtakingly well. Since I'm not Jewish, I was initially concerned that I might be confused with all of the unfamiliar history and folklore, but luckily the narrator begins the book with the same level of knowledge as I had (enough to get by living in NYC, but nothing too in-depth), and I was able to learn along with her as the tale unfolded. The "book within a book" aspect was especially well done, and the stories from the notebooks belonging to Marjorie's grandfather really shine. One particular chapter actually had me in tears, and I am not someone who cries easily! Feldman does have high expectations for her readers--the plot is nonlinear and straddles many genres (magical realism, detective, family, history, fantasy, etc), but I appreciate the challenge. This book is a perfect candidate for rereading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Exceptional work for a a first novel! I can't wait to read more from Stephanie Feldman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really thought I would like this book. However, I found very little to like in any of the characters. The concept of weaving Jewish myths in a modern research type mystery intrigued me. However, the myths, that were so relevant to the story seemed arduous to read and not compelling, they were too repetitive in nature. I did not enjoy the changing relationship between the sisters and found it so stereotypical that I had no interest in learning any more about the character Holly and her relationships with anyone. She came across as incredibly shallow and although the author tried to add dimension to her it did not work. Unfortunately, there was very little about the actual execution of this book that I enjoyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a wonderful story within a story, and richly written novel. This is amazing writing from a first time author with warmth, intrigue and insight. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was beautifully written, and a page turner. I couldn't put it down! 
SunMtnReviews More than 1 year ago
The Angel of Losses is a creative mix of fantasy, Jewish folklore, and history blended together and secretly embedded into the ancestry of one modern-day family.  The plot explores the significance of family bonds, love, sacrifice, and the need for redemption. Feldman packs a lot of subject matter into this book, so it is not a light, easy read.  In a nutshell, it’s a multi-layered novel that begins in the present with Marjorie’s quest to uncover the truth about her grandfather Eli’s past and the mystery behind their family’s legacy. Nestled within this overarching plot are four inter-related folktales about a fictitious White Rebbe (a Jewish Rabbi/guru) and the Angel of Losses who shadows him through life.  The folktales are based on the various myths about the Wandering Jew found throughout history. Other aspects of Jewish folklore are woven into the novel as well, such as mysticism and the lost tribes of Israel. Overall, Feldman does a good job in alternating between Marjorie’s story and the folktales about the White Rebbe. There were some places where I wasn’t clear about the shift in time from present to past events, and this occurred primarily when Marjorie reminisces about the close relationship she once had with Holly and their grandfather.   I really had to concentrate when I read this book, and sometimes I even had to back track and re-read scenes to try to understand the relevance of Eli’s secret folktales and their impact on Marjorie and Holly’s family. In the latter part of the book, the connections become clearer to me, but I’m still left with some questions and fuzziness about the long-term effects of Marjorie’s and Nathan’s decisions in their efforts to save the baby.  The author gives just enough background about the myths and legends to motivate me to continue reading, but I always felt I was just on the edge of understanding, always wondering if I missed a clue or overlooked an important detail.   Once I finished the book, I did do some research into various interpretations of the Wandering Jew and was surprised by how many stories, poems, and ballads have been written about this legendary figure.  I think I could read this book multiple times and continue to find new aspects to consider. The novel would make for a great discussion because of its ambiguity in some areas, but it may not be a book that would appeal to everyone.  What I enjoyed most about the book are the White Rebbie folktales in and of themselves. They are lively, engrossing, and, at times, heartbreaking. Feldman’s gift for storytelling is at its strongest in these supernatural tales about a young Solomon trying to outrun his destiny to become a White Rebbe and the toll it takes on his mind body, and family.  Through these tales, Feldman raises an important question: Can we ever fully escape our past?  A second aspect that made the book so enjoyable is the struggle Marjorie and Holly have to try and regain the emotional distance that now separates them.  It’s hard to accept that people grow and change no matter how hard we may want them to stay just as they are, and I can empathize with the frustration Marjorie feels whenever she tries to have a conversation with Holly.  Feldman does a very good job in depicting their struggles to accept and forgive each other.  If you like adult fantasy and want a story full of magic and mystery, consider reading this imaginative retelling of the Wandering Jew. Source: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author to provide an honest review. (Rating 3.5 stars)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful introduction from debut author Feldman! I really liked this book! Very well written, and kept me thoroughly absorbed. Really interesting characters and a plot line that i have not seen before! Well done!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really like this book, i have learned a lot. I was raised to respect and to treat the Jewish people in my hometown as a child. There were 2 jewish ladies whom ate at 5 & dime store .They had the number tattoos on their arms below the elbow. I was told not to look at the tattoos or ask about them. This book is well written. I could almost make out the faces of the characters in the story. I hope the author writes more with the female lead characters.
RGS1 More than 1 year ago
This is a complex and extremely well written novel. It is a multi-layered story with richly developed characters and intricate subplots that are beautifully woven together. The result is a great book that will touch your heart and entertain you and leave you wanting more from this talented new author. Miss Feldman knocks it out of the park with her first novel.
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