Invisible City is about a journalist who discovers her family history by delving into the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community where her mother grew up. But Rebekah Roberts doesn’t start out looking for her past. She is covering the news of a Hasidic woman’s murder, a tragedy that the private Brooklyn community would rather keep to themselves. Julia Dahl’s novel is supported by her knowledge of working in newspapers as well as her research of the Hasidim living in Brooklyn. Rebekah is straddling both worlds–on the one hand she wants to investigate this murder that is seemingly being swept under the rug, but in the process she is reminded of why her Jewish mother left her and her father, to return to the Orthodox way of life.
5 Reason to Read:
- Invisible City gives a small but compelling glimpse into the lives of the Hasidic women who care for their children, are devoutly religious, and have few opportunities.
- The details of working as a stringer as Rebekah Roberts does ring true–the waiting, the uncertainty, seeing your byline on a story you investigated but didn’t write–Dahl captures this well.
- Rebekah struggles with anxiety and depression while working on a story that could make or break her career–she is a character who is real and flawed.
- You’ll learn a lot from reading this book, whether about journalism or Judaism. It is clear this is a well-researched novel.
- This is one of those mysteries that barrels along with such a force you’ll have to hold on, but at the same time it is perfectly paced and carefully written with great precision.
The Long View:
A body is found in a scrap yard in Brooklyn and tabloid stringer Rebekah Roberts is assigned to get the scoop. Rebekah discovers the yard is owned by a Hasidic Jewish man named Aron Mendelssohn and it soon comes to light that the murdered woman was his wife, Rivka. Rebekah’s mother was Hasidic and left Rebekah and her father, a Christian, to return to the same ultra-Orthodox community. Rebekah’s Brooklyn apartment seems worlds away from the Haredi of Borough Park, but she must face her anxiety and try to gain insight into this community where her mother once lived. When Aron refuses to talk to Rebekah and is not questioned by the police, Rebekah begins to wonder how seriously the NYPD is taking the investigation. She soon finds out Rivka’s body has been taken by the Shomrim, or neighborhood watch, and there are no plans for an autopsy. By chance or fate, Rebekah meets Saul Katz, a friend of her mother’s and a Hasidic member of the NYPD, or so he says. Saul helps Rebekah talk to Rivka’s sister-in-law, Miriam, and allows her access to Rivka’s body. Rebekah sees how Rivka was brutalized and learns that she was pregnant at the time of her murder. She knows she has to bring to light the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, but the community seems content to bury the truth with Rivka. Through Saul, Rebekah learns about her mother who was questioning her lifestyle when she met Rebekah’s father. But the more Rebekah learns about her mother’s history and the Haredi, the more she wonders who to believe and who to trust. This story will make or break Rebekah’s fledgling career, but dangerous secrets could also cost Rebekah her life.
Order Invisible City now!
Pre-order Run You Down, the sequel to Invisible City due out in June 2015.
The preview of Run You Down at the end of the paperback edition of Invisible City features two chapters. The first chapter is told from the point of view of young Aviva, Rebekah’s mother. The second chapter picks up with Rebekah who is coming to terms with possibly reconnecting with her mother. This brief preview showcases how skillful Dahl is in elevating a murder mystery to something much deeper by exploring the relationship between religion and identity.
Have you read Invisible City? Will you be reading the sequel? I want to hear from you!