The Mystics of Mile End (Paperback)

By Sigal Samuel

William Morrow & Company, 9780062412171, 320pp.

Publication Date: October 13, 2015



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 discovering that there may be a place for Judaism in his life. As he learns about science in his day school, Lev begins his own extracurricular study of the Bible's Tree of Knowledge with neighbor Mr. Katz, who is building his own Tree out of trash. Meanwhile his sister Samara is secretly studying for her Bat Mitzvah with next-door neighbor and Holocaust survivor, Mr. Glassman. All the while his father, David, a professor of Jewish mysticism, is a non-believer.

When, years later, David has a heart attack, he begins to believe God is speaking to him. While having an affair with one of his students, he delves into the complexities of Kabbalah. Months later Samara, too, grows obsessed with the Kabbalah's Tree of Life--hiding her interest from those who love her most-and is overcome with reaching the Tree's highest heights. The neighbors of Mile End have been there all along, but only one of them can catch her when she falls.

Conversation Starters from

  1. Why do you think the author set this book in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood? What does the setting add to the story?generic viagra price canada
  2. David is depicted as a secular professor. Do you think he is a spiritual person, if not a religious one? How does his relationship with religion change after he is diagnosed with the heart murmur?generic viagra price canada
  3. How are Lev and Samara different? How are they alike? Why do they adopt such opposite attitudes toward religion as they grow up?generic viagra price canada
  4. Is Samara a sympathetic character? Why or why not? Is it important to your experience of the book that you like her?generic viagra price canada
  5. Why do both David and Samara grow obsessed with the Tree of Life? And why is the outcome different for each of them? Can you relate to this sort of obsession?generic viagra price canada
  6. When Samara begins to climb the Tree of Life, she chooses to send letters to Alex. Why him?generic viagra price canada
  7. Mr. Katz’s neighbors see him as deranged. Are there any moments that suggest he may not be so crazy after all? What do you imagine led to his obsession with recreating mystical trees?generic viagra price canada
  8. In one of his stories, Mr. Glassman lists words that don’t exist but should. What do you think he wishes he could say to his wife, and what does he say after the book ends? What are some experiences that you wish you had words for?generic viagra price canada
  9. A Jewish legend quoted in this book tells of four sages who enter a holy garden: one dies, one goes mad, one “cuts down the plantings,” and one comes out intact. Do you see parallels between them and the characters in this novel?generic viagra price canada
  10. Where do you think Samara and Lev will be in ten years? What will their relationship be like over that decade? Will Jenny still be in their lives? Will Val?generic viagra price canada