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.
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