I enjoyed Ms. Horn’s previous books, and that is why I was interested in reading this one, A Guide for the Perplexed.
The book fluctuates within time periods, offering the reader a scope of then and now, the philosophical and remembrance. Judaism is the significant force within the pages. Maimonides and his philosophies play a huge role within the stories that encapsulate the novel. In fact, much of the novel revolved around his concepts.
I was not thrilled with some of the characters, they didn’t move me, and I didn’t care about them. There were some positive aspects regarding them, I will admit, such as the inferences regarding their intellectual activities. I also enjoyed aspects pertaining to the storage of ancient documents in Genizah (a storage room), inside a synagogue. I did like some portions of the comparison of document or data storage, then and now. Yet, the story line reflecting the digital age and all it seemingly encompasses, seemed a bit redundant to me. There wasn’t anything enlightening or updating, as far as data, data storage, etc.
The story lines (there are more than one) left me feeling a bit empty. To me, Ms. Horn took on a large challenge, and couldn’t quite fulfill it. I felt she tried to combine too much in one book.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing, itself, was well done with vivid glimpses of past and present. The philosophical aspects did speak to me. I liked the philosophical comparisons, especially regarding memory and destiny. Those issues were not enough to stir my interests until the end of the book.
I realize Ms. Horn was trying to depict issues regarding family relationships, free will, nostalgia, an analogy to the story of Joseph, and memory and history, within the pages. To that end, she did succeed in having me ponder the differences between history and memory, actuality and reflection.
Memory is how we remember occurrences, which is not always how the happened. History, as written through the ages, is what actually occurred at a given time.
The word imagery was excellent, and I could see the visuals before me. It wasn’t enough, though, to involve me in enjoying the characters and their endeavors and lives.
Will I read a future book by Dara Horn? Most definitely.