Destination: Brooklyn, New York
Book: Invisible City by Julia Dahl (NEW summer 2014) [Review of MacMillan audio book read by Andi Arndt]
I’m back in New York City. Unfortunately it is only an armchair journey, but certainly an interesting one . I’ve moved from Terminal City in Manhattan, which we discussed a couple of weeks ago, to Invisible City in Brooklyn, a worthy first mystery novel by Julia Dahl.
In Invisible City, you will become acquainted with two worlds that may be as foreign to you as a small principality in Asia, even though it takes place in the middle of the quintessential American City.
The first, less exotic but nevertheless holding plenty of “I didn’t know that” moments, is the world of Rebekah Roberts, a young journalism graduate who works as a stringer for a sensationalist New York newspaper. She is learning her craft on the hoof as she sets off each day to follow whatever story the newspaper editors assign her — interviewing people, gathering facts, but not actually writing a story. Someone in the newsroom does that.
Until, that is, she becomes embroiled in the murder of a Hasidic woman in Brooklyn, and as she becomes more confident in her judgment as a journalist, she also grows in her understanding of her own life. Rebekah’s mother was a Hasidic Jew, who gave birth to Rebekah as a result of a temporary experiment in living outside the faith. While the girl was still very young, her mother, Aviva, left her with her father and Rebekah knows nothing about either Aviva or the Hasidic Jewish culture.
So we follow along as Rebekah (who has kept the Jewish spelling of her name, despite never practicing Judaism) learns what it is like to be a Hasidic woman and why her mother may have left the community, and even more puzzling to the motherless girl, why her mother returned to her faith, abandoning Rebekah and her father.
Rebekah picks her way through a minefield of people (newspaper editors, cops, Hasidic Jews) who never seem to be telling the whole truth. A key character is Saul Katz, a police liason to the insular Jewish community who knew her mother. That brings up the question of whether Rebekah spends so much time on this story because she is seeking justice for the murdered woman, or seeking her lost mother. She not only gains some maturity as a journalist during her investigation of the murder, but she gains in personal maturity as well.
There are many surprises–even shocks–awaiting Rebekah, and the reader about the way the isolated Hasidic Jewish community functions. Particularly the lives of the women.
Personally, I also was surprised and nearly shocked by the practices of the journalistic community as well.
Author Julia Dahl has worked as a journalist for various newspapers and websites, and like Rebekah has a Jewish mother and a Christian father. She lives in Brooklyn, which makes for vivid recreation of the life of the city.
In listening to an audio book, frequently the voice of the reader can make the difference between sticking with the book, or giving up on it. At first I thought I would find Andi Arndt’s high pitched rendering of Rebekah to be annoying, but ultimately it worked to remind me constantly of how young and naive Rebekah was. Plus, Arndt was able to present a variety of characters and clearly delineate them for my ear.
Invisible City will be a great audiobook for you to slip in the CD player as you head off for a road trip this summer, or a good book to curl up with in print on electronic form as you chill out. And you just may get hooked by Rebekah, and be waiting for the next installment of her journalistic adventures in NYC.
This interview will fill you in on her process in writing Invisible City, and give you a suggested book in case you want to learn more about the ultra Orthodox Jews.
Note: MacMillan Audio sent me an audio book for review. However, my opinions are always my own and I am not obligated to review the books they send.
You will find links to Amazon here, as well as links to informative articles. The Amazon links are affiliate links meaning A Traveler’s Library benefits when you shop through those links. Thank you.