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Jacob's Folly: A Novel by Rebecca Miller


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There is no earthly reason why this novel works as well as it does, except for the fact that Rebecca Miller is a great writer and really knows how to tell a tale. A Jewish peddler in 18th Paris who, under unusual circumstances, comes to 21st century New York and encounters a volunteer fireman and an ultra-Orthodox wouman with dreams of becoming an actress, thinking he can determine their fate. Marvelous book.

If I could, I would give it another half star. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This is one of those books whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The author has taken the "a fly on the wall" POV to a new level by making the narrator of the story literally into a fly. But not just an ordinary fly - one who was once a man 300 years before! As ridiculous as this may sound, it is a conceit that actually works.

You can read my full review here...

(My thanks to the Cannongate Books for sending a review copy via Curious Book Fans.) ( )
  Davida.Chazan | Sep 7, 2013 |
Funny and frank observations of 21st century American life from an 18th century Parisian street vendor reincarnated as a fly. Enjoyable!

Jacob Cerf aka Gebeck aka Le Naif died in 1773 Paris. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself reincarnated as a common housefly in 21st Century Long Island! He is immediately drawn to a man named Leslie Senzatimore, an all-around good guy who helps everyone around him. Jacob doesn't dislike Leslie, but he has an unbearable itch to knock Leslie off his pedestal. Jacob is also fascinated by a young woman who is an observant Jew, but has lost her direction. Jacob decides to help her find her way in this brave new world. Jacob's scheming brings these two people together in what he hopes will be a cataclysmic moment, ruining one and freeing another.

Throughout Jacob's modern-day narrative, he also tells us of his life in 18th Century Paris, where he was met with suspicion and rancor because of his religion. He was a street vendor, married to a mentally challenged girl whose family bullied him. A strange viscount takes him on as a valet, educating him and insisting he cast aside his religion.

Jacob's voice is frank and funny. He is telepathically linked to Leslie and Masha, so we get glimpses of their innermost thoughts and motivations. Leslie's drive to help people makes Jacob crazy; he can't believe anyone can be this good without something dark inside. Through Masha and her family, Jacob is reminded of the God he abandoned. He literally is the fly on the wall in these people's lives, and because of that, we get to understand these characters and how they change. In many ways, Jacob is not a very likeable character, but maybe that's why his observations are more believable and funny. ( )
  eilonwyhan | Jul 11, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374178542, Hardcover)

A luminous novel—funny and moving in equal measure—that shines with the author’s unique talents

Jacob’s Folly is a rollicking, ingenious, saucy book that takes on desire, faith, love, acting—and reincarnation.
     The novel brims with sparkling, unexpected characters: Jacob, a Jewish peddler living in eighteenth-century France; Leslie and Deirdre Senzatimore, a settled American couple; Masha, an alluring young Ultra-Orthodox Jew, who is also gravely ill. In Rebecca Miller’s self-assured second novel, these four individuals will find their fates intertwined when Jacob is reincarnated as a fly in contemporary Long Island.
     Miller’s quirky humor and acute, original intelligence animate a wonderfully memorable protagonist. Through the unique lens of Jacob’s consciousness, she explores transformation in all its different guises—personal, spiritual, literal. As she considers the hold of the past on the present, the power of private hopes and dreams, and the collision of fate and free will, Miller’s world—which is our own, transfigured by her clear gaze and by her sharp, surprising wit—comes to life. Leslie’s desire to act as hero and rescuer; Jacob’s disastrous marriage to the childlike Hodel and his obsession with Masha—Miller sketches her characters’ interior lives with compassion, subtlety, and an exceptionally light touch. Jacob’s Folly is wildly inventive and ultimately moving; it will leave the reader, no less than its characters, transformed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:22 -0400)

"An eighteenth-century Jewish peddler is reincarnated as a fly in present-day Long Island, and becomes involved in the lives of two residents"--

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