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The Mystics of Mile End

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  669 ratings  ·  133 reviews
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 dis
Paperback, 310 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published May 1st 2015)
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Sigal Hi, thanks for your question, and I'm sorry to hear that this happened. Assuming this was a giveaway in the US, please try contacting sharyn (dot) ros…moreHi, thanks for your question, and I'm sorry to hear that this happened. Assuming this was a giveaway in the US, please try contacting sharyn (dot) rosenblum (at) — she should be able to help you out! (less)

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Angela M
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars .

This book is about the Jewish experience and no doubt , if a reader is Jewish, they may understand this in a different way , feel something about the story in a different way than I did . In all honesty there were things about this book that I did not understand, so I'll talk about those things that I did - that this was a book about grief and love and family relationships and friendship and people trying to discover themselves.

This is about dealing with this grief and the sadness th
Don't see signs in everything. It makes it impossible to live.

I'm not sure what possessed little atheistic me to enter a giveaway for a book about Jewish mysticism, (A dybbuk? Shut up, I don't believe in you!), but I'm glad I did.

Samuel's book is a gem, filled with lovely writing and interesting characters searching for something to believe in.

First we meet young Lev who becomes fascinated with an eccentric neighbor, Mr. Katz, who has been criticized as being all faith and no knowledge. Katz is
Elyse  Walters
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Jewish mysticism, religion, science, chaos, loss, grief, secrets, and searching for meaning
in life, are themes explored. This is a wonderful tender story...with an aura of the mythic,
the magical, and mystery of the universe.
Sigal Samuel irresistibly drew me into the characters, the struggles, the failings, the pain, betrayals, the friendships, the trust, and the wonder of how faith and science empowers us.

The Myer family lives in Montreal. They live in Mile End --which is a 'tribe' neighbor
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian
Set in the Mile End neighborhood of Montreal, where Hasidic Jews live intertwined with hipsters, two siblings are making sense of their own identities in the context of parental loss, being called back to religious practice, and more. The characters are vivid and it goes deep into some Jewish mystic beliefs. Within the Jewish characters are those who are all belief with no logic (and they are criticized by those who come at their belief from the opposite perspective.) I love how the author captu ...more
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This ambitious novel succeeded at every level for me. The writing is exquisite and the characters are memorable and engaging. The story itself is complex, exploring the themes of science, religion, faith, Jewish mysticism, joy, despair, love, life, death, and more. What a feat to pull all that off so convincingly! A really wonderful story, one I managed to finish reading in record time and won't soon forget. ...more
Amber Dawn
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I just saw Sigal read from this novel last night at her Vancouver launch, and I fell in love with the book all over again. I might have to read it a second time! It captivates with its themes of mysticism, tradition, queer identity, death and recovery. Wonderfully ambitious, yet deftly crafted.
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful and complex novel-- I loved being enveloped in the stories of Lev, Samara, and David, and seeing the lines cross over each other. An ambitious undertaking, but Sigal Samuel is a bold guide into an area I know very little about. Her phrases flashed at me like beacons to follow, ones like "Everywhere I looked, a thousand tiny outstretched hands waited to pull me up. There was nothing I touched that did not sing, and there was nothing I saw that did not contain a clue."
Highly reco
Moshe Mikanovsky
4.5* What a beautiful story! The characters are so well developed and their point of views and interactions are on point. Samuel does an amazing job with each voice, especially Lev as a kid. The final Miles End section, the only one told in the 3rd voice, wrap everything up and reveals more about Mr. Glassman, their neighbour and religious studies teacher, and his wife. There are one or two unexplained inconsistencies but otherwise a beautiful book. Looking to see and read more from Sigal Samuel ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Say what you will about the school of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah, but it's certainly served as a great basis for all kinds of metaphorically and symbolically wonderful pieces of contemporary fiction, from Myla Goldberg's haunting Bee Season to Darren Aronofsky's head-scratching Pi; and now here's a
May 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews, fiction
It has taken me quite a while to digest this novel. It started out very strong, written from the point of view of Lev Meyer, who is exploring religion and what role it plays in his life. There were three other parts to the novel, all from the points of view of different narrators. I wish it had all been in Lev's voice. I think I would have liked it more. For some reason I couldn't connect with the other characters. I don't want to say I didn't care about them but their voices were not as strong ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, especially since it is set in one of my favorite parts of Montreal. I loved the first section, the story being told from the perspective of young Lev, but did not enjoy the narratives of his father and sister, partially because I did to like them, partially because as the story delved more and more into the Kaballah study it became less and less believable to me. There were other secondary characters who I loved - Mr. Katz, Mr Glassman and his wife, Lev's frien ...more
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The study of the Tree of Life is one of the most hallowed and important facets of Jewish mysticism. The allure of “climbing” the tree, of learning more and more and eventually ascending into another form, is so enticing, that the study of this branch of Kabbalah is for the most part only allowed to be undertaken by married men over the age of forty. Such is the danger of losing oneself to the beautiful dream.

Sigal Samuel’s debut novel, The Mystics of Mile End, follows the fortunes of the Meyer f
The Mystics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel is, above all, an amazing book, such a sure-footed, beautifully written novel that it’s hard to believe it’s her first. It’s one of those books that was so good I’m not quite sure where to begin describing it...At its core, The Mystics of Mile End is a story about a family. Lev and Samara Meyer live with their father David in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood, a curious mix of Hasidic Jews (a branch of Orthodox Judaism) and young hipsters. Samuel lovingly ...more
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing

Is an “eminently readable” novel a good thing? Not always. In this case, it is: and not just because this novel takes place in my own neighborhood. The Mystics of the Mile End is an enchanting, modern-day story told in vignettes by a small cast of characters (a family, an eccentric neighbor Mr. Katz, and a mathematician couple who are Holocaust survivors) connected by their relationships to each other, Judiasm, and the goings-on of their neighborhood of hipsters and Hasidic Jews. The absence of
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In the early pages of this book, I was thinking it would end up being maybe 3 stars. As I got further into it, that went up to 4. By the final section and more and more clearly throughout the final pages, it was a definite 5-star book.

I liked the separate viewpoints and how each of the three that were from a specific narrator had its own voice and its own feeling. I liked how the mysticism is there throughout, but that it slowly builds around and within the story, so that as it increases its pre
Lynda Loigman
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that lingers long after you are finished reading. The story is thought-provoking and well-crafted, and the prose is absolutely poetic. At times it reads like a fable or fairy-tale, which I happen to love. Sigal Samuel brings the quirky neighborhood of Mile End to life with vivid details and spectacular color. Her characters are lovable and heart-breaking. Though this book tells a family story filled with very realistic examples of teen angst, misunderstanding, secrets and loss, it ...more
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Candice by: Maggie
I read this for a book group and was not fond of it. It started off great. I thought it would be a coming-of-age novel featuring Lev Meyer and his friend Alex. Through skillful turns of phrase, the author makes the reader realize how much Lev and his older sister, Samara, miss their mother who died when they were 5 and 7. Their mother had practiced the orthodox branch of Judaism while their father wanted nothing to do with religion. I really liked the characters of Lev and his geeky friend Alex ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
This story takes place in the Hasidic neighborhood of Mile End, Montreal. It begins as two children Lev (heart in Hebrew) and his sister Samara try to bring themselves up. Their mother had died several years ago and their father remains distant, hiding himself in his study. The story is told from the point of view of Lev, the fifth grader, then through the voice of their father David ten years later and right before he dies. Lastly, we see the struggles through the college student Samara and the ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Creative and well written. The author did a good job giving each member of the family a distinctive and interesting voice. I enjoyed each of Lev, David, and Samara’s chapters equally. I expected a little more of.... I don’t know, something.... from the last chapter but on the whole I liked it this a lot and I would recommend it. I also appreciated that this is substantive and thought provoking but also very accessible and not difficult or burdensome to read.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
The Mystics of Mile End is a rich and satisfying novel in a number of ways. It juxtaposes Jewish mysticism and rationalism; it presents a world populated by a mix of hipsters and conservative Jews; it explores the crisis moments in life that can lead to an embrace or rejection of faith; it contrasts scientifically based narrative with the narrative of the Torah and Kabbalah. Add to this the fact that it’s narrated in four different voices and what the reader encounters is a world that’s new at e ...more
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book and one other have, in the last month, taught me more about Judaism than I think I had heard for my entire life.

Mystics is separated into four main sections. The first three focus on the points of view of a son (Lev), a father (David) and a daughter (Samara), concerning Judaism in general and study of the Kabbalah in particular. The fourth section is titled 'Mile End' and seems to have more than one narrator/focal person, all of whom are known to the family previously listed.

There is a
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
The Mys­tics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel is a novel tak­ing place in a Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Mon­tréal, Canada.

The book is divided into four parts, the first three are told through the eyes of the main char­ac­ters Lev, his father David, and sister/daughter Samara. The fourth part is told through the eyes of the sur­round­ing char­ac­ters in Mile End.

The Mys­tics of Mile End by Sigal Samuel is a book about Judaism, mys­ti­cism and how the two get affected by loss and grief. This is not a quick
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I don't know, this grabbed me in the first quarter, then took a sharp left out of nowhere. I really, truly enjoyed the first part of the book, getting to know the characters, sensing a mystery developing...but then it just dipped into some weird territory and became so disjointed that I felt like someone had come in and swapped the book out to a new one when I wasn't looking. Basically, this book made me feel like I was drunk, but not the good kind, like the "black-out-wha ...more
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This is a profoundly creative tale about mysticism, faith, and the power of strong beliefs to build or tear apart families. Set in a Hasidic neighborhood in Canada, three surviving members of a family struggle with their individual and collective views of religious belief and orthodoxy; while each is profoundly drawn to religious mysticism although never all at the same time. The book is filled with Talmudic tales, Holocaust terrors and Biblical stories that combine to create a fantasy-like feel ...more
Raven Haired Girl
Oct 18, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015
Wonderful book exploring mysticism brought about through loss, grief.

All the characters were fabulous, each served an important role in the exploration of mysticism as they forged their own conclusions. Their challenges, questions, quests fed the soul of mysticism.

The heart of the story is mysticism, its many forms and shapes merge together to make this story mesmerizing. The story touches upon mysticism bleeding through mathematics, religion, science, linguistics, relationships, grief, joy and
Ellyn Lem
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a book like few others that I have read--partly due to the subject matter of the Kabbalah that I don't know that much about. But the book also had a number of characters not often encountered in novels--a Hassidic man who is looked at as an outsider due to his artistic renderings of biblical teachings, a Holocaust survivor whose wife only communicates in mathematical formulas. Lest I make this novel sound too much like a bunch of Jewish eccentrics, at the heart of the story is a brother ...more
Lauren Wallace
I would like to thank Kelsey from freehand books for providing me with an advance copy of this novel.
"What is e moral of this story? Don't see signs in everything. It makes it impossible to live." (207)
I really enjoyed this novel. I feel like I really enjoyed this story due to the fact that I felt it was similar to how to kill a mockingbird and beautiful creatures; which are my favourite books. I would recommend this books to anyone, as it could fit into many different age categories. This book
Aug 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I would rate this work a solid 4.8. Sigal Samuel's "The Mystics of Mile End" is beautifully written, entertaining, and full of interesting characters. I quite enjoyed the uniqueness of the book. Nowadays, too many stories are too similar and it was nice to read something that was not one of the same old stories with different players. I found Samara, especially, to be quite an interesting and unique character.
I really enjoyed the authors use of imagery and metaphors and I would not hesitate to
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
"The Mystics of Mile End" is complex and engaging novel. It is the story of intersected lives, and the impact each person involved has on those around them. That what we communicate, or not, can have consequences that follow us for a lifetime. It is a brilliant book filled with mysticism and tests of faith. "The Mystics of Mile End" makes you question how we engage. How we love. And, ultimately, how we express ourselves to those in our lives. Truly a wonderful novel.

*I received a copy of this b
Jessica Walters
Apr 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This story is taken from the perspectives of three different characters and the events take place over the course of fifteen years in Montreal’s Mile End. Their stories are all related in that they are all trying to understand secret languages, the Kabbalah being one example of this. Consequently, the text is really rich in symbols –and the way in which these symbols are introduced is very distinct without losing subtly. I received this book through a First Reads Giveaway.
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Sigal Samuel is a novelist, journalist, and essayist. She has published work in the Daily Beast, the Rumpus, BuzzFeed, and the Walrus, among other publications. Originally from Montreal, Sigal now lives and writes in Brooklyn. The Mystics of Mile End is her first novel.

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“You think, because you are sitting in a tree and it is raining and you have not eaten and you have not slept, that you are uncomfortable? You are following a clear path, and that is comfortable!” 0 likes
“We are each given at birth a finite number or words, stored in the four chambers of our hearts. If we use them well, we may live to a ripe old age. The foolish among us speak often and die young. The wise among us speak seldom and die old. The wisest among us never speak a single word. They guard their words as carefully as if they were precious stones. They know that there is nothing better for the body than silence. The wisest of the royal subjects live forever.” 0 likes
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