The Angel of Losses
Stephanie Feldman’s debut novel, The Angel of Losses, weaves fable, family, religion and mystery together as she tells the story of two sisters, Marjorie and Holly, who are estranged. Told in first person from Marjorie’s point of view, the story begins with a fable told to the girls when they were children by their grandfather, Eli Burke. It is a frightening tale they both remember for years, about the ghastly ghost of a young boy.
After Eli’s death, Marjorie discovers his lost notebook about the White Rebbe, one of the main characters in the fable she’d heard as a child. There is also mention of the Angel of Losses, who seems sinister and intimately connected to the White Rebbe. Marjorie learns there are three other notebooks and sets out to find them in order to make sense of her grandfather’s life, a life about which she knows very little.
In the meantime, she must deal with her pregnant sister, Holly, who has married an Orthodox Jew, much to her Gentile family’s consternation. Marjorie is particularly unhappy with Holly’s choice, Nathan, and feels he is taking Holly away from her family.
Marjorie is working on her doctoral dissertation, researching all she can about the Wandering Jew, condemned to wander the Earth until the return of the Messiah, according to Christian tradition. She is amazed to discover connections between the Jew, the Rebbe and the Angel. As she digs deeper, she unearths her grandfather’s tortured past in Nazi Germany.
Parts of this book are beautifully rendered, especially the fables themselves. However, the last third of the book becomes very confusing, leaving the reader wondering what actually happens at the end of the book. This novel is a promising debut, but needs further development. Reading about someone’s dissertation research is not particularly riveting.