Invis­i­ble City

  • Review
By – May 5, 2014

Rebekah Roberts, a run­ner for the New- York Tri­bune, is sent on assign­ment to report on the grue­some mur­der of Jane Doe, whose naked body was left lying in a scrap yard in Brook­lyn. Very quick­ly Rebekah pieces togeth­er that Jane is actu­al­ly Riv­ka Mendelssohn of Bor­ough Park, home to a large Hasidic com­mu­ni­ty. In her attempt to get the juicy details for her news­pa­per, Rebekah meets Saul Katz — a man who once knew her estranged moth­er, both of whom were mem­bers of this same Hasidic com­mu­ni­ty. Over the next five days, he helps Rebekah delve more deeply into Rivka’s dark past, a life that odd­ly par­al­lels that of Rebekah’s own moth­er. The clos­er she gets to this real­iza­tion, the more she won­ders if her mother’s dis­ap­pear­ance from her life was less self­ish and more invol­un­tary. Her com­pul­sion to learn the truth gets Rebekah into trou­ble, in a world where she is a stranger. 

Julia Dahl’s nov­el reads like a guide to the dark side of Hasidic Jew­ry, where secrets are not safe. Through­out, Rebekah learns about her Juda­ism while fight­ing the urge to reject it: 

It was about shared expe­ri­ence, but also about shared mythol­o­gy… The fear of being a Jew. The cul­tur­al bag­gage, the long lega­cy of hate and mur­der and dis­crim­i­na­tion. The root­less­ness, the des­per­ate need for self-preser­va­tion, and of course, I don’t real­ly know. I only know the bag­gage of being me. But part of it, I think now, is being a Jew. 

Dahl keeps you guess­ing con­stant­ly about who may have been respon­si­ble for Rivka’s death. She also gives the read­er a glimpse into how news­pa­pers run sto­ries about New York City mur­ders — and which sto­ries get con­ve­nient­ly left out.

Read Julia Dahl’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

Why I Write About Crime

The Pre­vi­ous Tenant

Are You Jewish?”

Relat­ed content:

Libi is a first-time mom liv­ing in New Jer­sey. She works in fundrais­ing and events at Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty and is pur­su­ing a master’s degree in Marketing.

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