I first saw this book on Tanya’s blog 52 Books or Bust and my, didn’t this sound like something definitely up my alley! She wrote about it way back in May, and our library didn’t bring in this book until December! I needed a book that would pull me out of a continuous slump of lacklustre reading and I put a great deal of expectation on this one to come through! (It did, and it didn’t – will explain more below.)
The Mystics of Mile End is broken down into 4 sections: “Lev”, “Daniel”, “Samara” and “Mile End”:
The first section, “Lev”, is all from Lev’s, the youngest boy’s point of view. And, oh wow – I completely adored it. Like, great heaping amounts of adoration for this section. Finally! Finally! I was exclaiming – this book is really doing it for me! I sincerely wished this section could have gone on – loved this younger Lev’s journey, from finding ways to get his dad interested in his teacher, or trying to find ways to see if his teacher would be interested in his dad, all in order to help fill the emptiness and sadness left because of their mother’s passing away. Lev is so sweet and vulnerable, he thinks that when his dad comes home smelling of women’s perfume, it is because he is missing Lev’s mom by covering himself in her scent. Lev has a best friend, Alex. Alex is a great character, he’s all caught up in his scientist notions and his dedicated love of Lev’s sister, Samara.
In this section, we view their eccentric neighbour, Mr. Katz and all of his daily oddities, this one currently is that he is building the Tree of Knowledge out of (green) leaves (which he’s painting over with green paint), and how Lev will go and help him. We also learn of his other neighbour, Mr. Glassman. And oh my, the Glassman’s! This couple ripped my heart open too! Why Mr. Glassman looks at the numbers tattooed on his arm – when he explains what their other meaning is….it equals everything awesome. And how when Mrs. Glassman has a stroke and is nearing her end, how Mr. Glassman wants to go with her too and not be left behind, equaled all amounts of awesomeness.
Lev, Alex and the Glassman’s for the win in this book.
The next section is from Daniel’s point of view: Daniel is Lev and Samara’s father, and well, their father was a bit of a put off for me. He was quite neglectful, selfish…resistant to the kids being involved in religion. Yet, I was still very immersed in this story and much of it had to do with the parts where Daniel is explaining the cause of a major argument between him and his wife, leading to her leaving the house in a huff, only to be killed in a car accident. This is all wonderful reading. (Okay, sorry, that sounds odd, but truly, the reading in many parts of Daniel’s section were indeed wonderful moments.) Then Daniel starts to think his heart murmur is mystical and he too should try to climb the tree of Life. This part becomes a bit of a tumble and an abrupt ending to his section of the book.
Part 3 is “Samara”: Here, this is where it really starts to veer off the rails – Samara finds her father, Daniel’s manuscript and after secretly making her Bat Mitzvah (with the help and teaching of Mr. Glassman) she leaves all religious study behind, until she finds this manuscript. Then starts having hallucinations just as her father did, all trying to go about climbing this Tree of Life.
The final part of the book ends with, “Mile End”: unfortunately, for me, it really turns to the strange here, and I know I completely missed out on it, I know I completely missed out on the message. It all becomes very strange with Samara actually climbing the Tree of Life that was made by Mr. Katz on their street.
The ending is a bit odd and perhaps abrupt, but overall, I enjoyed The Mystics of Mile End, I only wish the whole entire story could maybe have been all from Lev’s point of view – both younger Lev and adult Lev. There are wonderful, tender, heartbreaking moments in this story and there are many mystical and odd ones as well. A very good read for me overall, but perhaps not as much of a superstar read that I was hoping for!