Thursday, April 20, 2023

Review: Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi, by MaNishtana


Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi by MaNishtana. Published 2018 by Multikosheral Press NYC. Fiction.

Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi is a novel by and about a Black Orthodox Jewish rabbi living in Brooklyn, and it is pretty great.

It's set in the Midwood and Flatbush neighborhoods of Brooklyn as well as around Manhattan. So it's a very New York book. As the book opens Ariel has, though a series of circumstances, come to be the rabbi of a small and dilapidated shul, and he navigates and negotiates the community it attracts alongside his own complicated social and romantic life.

I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The narrator, who is not Ariel but someone else, is funny and fierce and unique. I don't think I've encountered its like before but the novel is not exclusively voice-driven. It works on a number of levels with richly drawn characters, a vivid setting and enough plot to keep us going especially as the book rounds the corner into its final quarter. I enjoyed how well he brings us into Ariel's world, how immersive the book is and how easy it is to find one's way around as a reader. He does a great job of dramatizing the back-and-forth inside of Ariel as well as all the drama swelling around him. And there is a lot of drama.

I also liked how the author balances action and drama with introspection. And I want to know more about the narrator, who seems to be a bystander of some kind. Maybe I missed it but I don't think we ever find out their identity. It's not a third-person omniscient; this person has an identity and a role to play in the story. Maybe we'll learn more in a sequel or in something else by MaNishtana in the future.

I'd recommend it to just about anyone. Go order it from Bookshop and read it please.


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

1 comment:

Harvee said...

This book seems to have all the elements for success! Nice review.