Today's review is a book which is a bit different than I normally would read. (Typically, my favorites are fantasy/sci-fi, YA, and historical fiction.) However, when I initially looked through NetGalley to find book titles, I must have been going through a phase with learning about Jewish people because this is the second NetGalley book which has to do with different Jewish cultures and their history.
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Author: Julia Dahl
Genre: Mystery/New Adult/Contemporary Fiction
Basic Summary Without Spoilers:
Invisible City is mystery novel about Rebekah Roberts, a young aspiring journalist trying to make it in New York City. She is assigned a story about a murder case involving a Hasidic Jewish community who like to keep to themselves, which makes interviews quite a challenge. However, while trying to get the scoop, Rebekah finds out the people of this community may know about her mother, who was also Hasidic, and had abandoned her as a baby.
The Cover: The title and the cover fit the story very well. The Hasidic community portrayed in this novel is very much an invisible city. They reside in NYC, but not many people know about their lives and culture. They live very isolated as though they are invisible, and Rebekah attempts to shed some light on the secrets of the community. The cover has a great view of Manhattan from the bridge with whom I am assuming is Rebekah looking out over the city.
The Premise: At first, it took me a little while to get used to the feel of the book. As someone who usually only watches murder mysteries on TV (such as Castle or Bones), it was weird to have so much focus in only a few days and on a very specific instance. I kept on wanting more story beyond the murder mystery, but then would have to remind myself the mystery was the point of the novel. Once I got over this, I enjoyed the book much more.
Learning about the Hasidc community was interesting. While the main character, Rebekah, was Jewish, she, like the reader, didn't know much about their heritage or culture. Therefore, the reader is learning along with her about the ins and outs of their world. Dahl did a wonderful job of showing some of the darker secrets of these people, but also showing why they chose this life and the benefits of those choices. She also showed the side of those who decided to leave the community and their choices.
The one part I found lacking was the history behind her mother. Some of the ties of the community and Rebekah looking into her past could have been a bit stronger. While it was realistic, I feel the connection needed to be stronger for storytelling's sake.
I also didn't enjoy learning about the journalism world. So much of what Rebekah had to do seemed very invasive. While I see why it is necessary, it made me uncomfortable.
The Mystery: There was so much to it! I loved all of the characters and putting the pieces together. I didn't see the murderer coming (although I probably should have) and I love seeing the twists and turns the author made with each of the characters. I really enjoyed how it turned out though, although one quick twist on the very last page I felt was a bit random.
The Characters: Rebekah was strong until it came to her mother. Which makes sense - I would be a mess too if my mom left me at 6 months. I liked her roommate a lot as well, but she wasn't in the story much. Beyond also having lost a mother, I don't know much about her and wish I had. Out of everyone though, I liked reading about the Hasidic people the most. I thought learning about their points of view, reasons why they live their lives the way they do, and uncovering such a different culture was interesting.
My Overall Thoughts: For a book which is normally not my taste, I enjoyed it. Typically I like a bit more of a character driven story vs. an event driven story, but it was still entertaining. I liked learning about the Hasidic culture as well. However, I do feel I could have gotten to know the characters better, and the story-line about Rebekah and her mother could have been stronger. For people who enjoy murder mysteries, this would be a great pick
I gave this novel 3 out of five stars on Goodreads.