Jacob’s Folly is a quirky, imaginative, and unusual novel spanning several centuries, characters, themes, and locales. Jacob Cerf, an 18th-century Parisian Jew, is torn between the sensual delights of society and the ethereal joy of the newly emerging Hasidic tradition. After his untimely death, he’s reincarnated in a rather unusual form, and finds himself drawn to two 21st-century individuals: Masha Edelman, a young Hasidic woman straining against her family’s expectations, and Leslie Senzatimore, a volunteer firefighter and father with a tragic childhood.
Jacob was corrupted in his human life by a French nobleman who lured him from his simple religious home and transformed him into a callous hedonist. Disappointed in his new form, Jacob decides to tempt Masha and Leslie away from their loyalties and responsibilities, driving them toward disaster and ruin with malicious glee.
Miller’s irreverent mix of faith, family, and moral failings provides a serious skeleton, but as the bawdy cover suggests, the story has a decidedly earthy tone, and Miller is unapologetic in her exploration of sex, desire, and temptation. The narrative style is playful, flipping between 18th-century Paris and contemporary Long Island, and shifts across points-of-view: Jacob, Masha, and Leslie as well as dipping into the lives of the secondary characters around them. Despite the heavy philosophical themes, the novel reads quickly and scandalously fun.