Opening line: “When Grandpa came to live with us, he brought the White Magician with him.”
Marjorie is writing her dissertation on the many iterations of the Wandering Jew, a Jewish folktale that seems to appear in different times and places all over the world. Her interest in the Wandering Jew is sparked by tales her grandfather would tell to her and her sister growing up, but as the story unravels Marjorie finds that the Wandering Jew has another role to play in her life.
The story begins after Marjorie’s grandfather has died, and her sister Holly has converted to Judaism and married Nathan, a member of the Berukhim sect, which follows a Rabbi who, they claim, never died. Marjorie finds a notebook from her grandfather which tells the story of Solomon, a young Jewish boy who meets the Angel of Losses. The Angel of Losses is a fallen angel trying to return to heaven, but he can’t get past the Sabbath River. So he gives humans the secret last letter of the Jewish Alphabet, called the Sabbath Light, which is the letter needed to complete the name of God. The Sabbath Light gives them special powers, such as the power to heal. In return for this power, the humans must someday try to get across the River. Solomon accepts the bargain for the Sabbath Light in order to save his young brother.
There are other notebooks by her grandfather which complete the story, and Marjorie must find them in order to save Holly, Nathan, and their new baby, Eli.
I’ll be honest. I was pretty confused about who Solomon, the White Magician, the White Rebbe, and the Wandering Jew were. (Hint: they’re the same.) Then there’s the Angel of Losses, the Sabbath River, and the Sabbath Light.
But if you can keep all of that straight, it’s a pretty fascinating story. It was an interesting mix of mysticism, WWII fiction, and contemporary. I can’t say it was my favorite, but I’m glad I read it!
For another great review of this book, check out the review at the A. V. Club.
Recommend? Not highly, but yes. It gets a 3.
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