Thursday, February 28, 2013

Review: JACOB'S FOLLY, by Rebecca Miller

Jacob's Folly, by Rebecca Miller. Published 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Literary Fiction.

"I'm a fly on plane.
I've got a lot of dreams.
I never counted on a rolled up in-flight magazz-"
-Christine Lavin, "Fly on a Plane."

You guys. It's early in the year, but I'm ready to add another book to my Best of 2013 list. Rebecca Miller's novel Jacob's Folly comes out next week and I urge you all to race to your independent bookstore and pick it up.

Jacob's Folly has one of the funnest, most original premises I've come across. Jacob Cerf is a dead Jewish peddler from 18th century France come back to life as a fly on the wall- literally- of two modern day New Yorkers. Leslie Senzatimore is an inveterate goody-two-shoes living on Long Island with his family. He's practically a saint, between volunteer fire-fighting and caring for his extended dysfunctional brood, and he drives Jacob crazy with his do-gooder-ness. Enter Masha, an Orthodox Jew with dreams of the stage and screen. She's a beauty with the voice of an angel, and she longs to use her talent the way she believes God intended. Jacob has the power to influence their thoughts and actions, and he uses it.

As we watch these two misfits figure out the meaning of their lives, we also see Jacob's own story unfold, from his disaster of a marriage to his adventures as a peddler, actor and man-about-town.  I think this book would appeal to readers of historical fiction, contemporary family stories and Jewish fiction (obviously). Miller makes Masha's family and beliefs accessible without a deep knowledge of Orthodox practices, and makes Les a complicated man with a deeply troubled past who is nonetheless sympathetic even as he does something truly terrible blinded by desire for Masha.

Miller's writing sparkles at every turn. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun reading a serious literary novel. I did not want to put it down. I think I read it in about four days, shorter than a book of this length would normally take me, because I just didn't want to stop reading it. I had to find out what happened to these people, even to Jacob the fly. I loved it loved it loved it. No that was not a typo. I loved it!

Rating: BUY! Like, now, okay?

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


bermudaonion said...

I've always wanted to be a fly on the wall. You've made this sound wonderful!

Mary said...

Thanks so much for sharing. This will be a definite for me! So unique!

Melissa Ward said...

Super random comment/question - is this the same Rebecca Miller who is married to Daniel Day-Lewis? I thought I saw a tweet this weekend mentioning this....

Now I must investigate.

Marie Cloutier said...

Melissa, yes! The same.

Aarti said...

Wow, what a fun premise for a novel! Glad it is literary AND fun. Sounds great!

Booklogged said...

I recently read a funny & macabre mystery novel so now it's time for a funny literary novel. Sounds good.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering about this one -- you've convinced me to check it out! Great review.