By – December 13, 2022

A school trip for four pre­teens morphs into a mys­ti­cal mis­sion to com­plete the leg­endary unfin­ished cor­ner of the world. Why does this cor­ner even exist? In the words of Kotzk­er Rebbe, God left one lit­tle cor­ner in dark­ness so that we may hide in it!” Accord­ing to Jew­ish eso­teric texts includ­ing midrash (Hebrew scrip­ture com­men­taries) and kab­bal­ah (Jew­ish mys­ti­cal writ­ings), the cor­ner is a cold, dark, drea­ry, demon-infest­ed place that needs some fix­ing up.

On their way to attempt­ing to fill this void, the stu­dents encounter Jew­ish mys­ti­cal super­stars like the golem, a giant clay cre­ation intend­ed to save the Jews of Prague; Lil­lith, the first wife of Adam; and the nephilim, half-angel and half-human trou­ble­mak­ers. Usu­al­ly por­trayed as a neg­a­tive and threat­en­ing she-demon, Lil­lith is refresh­ing­ly pre­sent­ed here as a beau­ti­ful, con­cerned moth­er, and her demon chil­dren as kind. Indeed, all the char­ac­ters — includ­ing the occa­sion­al­ly bick­er­ing teens — are viewed as redeemable, demon­strat­ing com­pas­sion and trust.

This won­der­ful­ly illus­trat­ed graph­ic nov­el tra­vers­es coun­tries, time peri­ods, and real­i­ties. Sur­pris­ing touch­es — like the heav­i­ly armed guard at the school entrance, who appears at the begin­ning of the sto­ry — add fright­en­ing real­ness to a com­plex fantasy.

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and free­lance writer, Helen Weiss Pin­cus, has taught mem­oir writ­ing and cre­ative writ­ing through­out the NY Metro area to senior cit­i­zens and high school stu­dents. Her work has been pub­lished in The New York Times, The Record, The Jew­ish Stan­dard, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She recent­ly added Bub­by” to her job description.

Discussion Questions

A graph­ic nov­el filled with kid-cen­tric humor, high adven­ture, and weird, creepy, apoc­ryphal sto­ries and char­ac­ters from the Bible and rab­binic lit­er­a­ture, The Unfin­ished Cor­ner is def­i­nite­ly not like any oth­er book in the stan­dard Jew­ish children’s library. While prepar­ing for her bat mitz­vah, twelve year-old Miri is unex­pect­ed­ly yanked into a quest that hops between the phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al worlds, along with three friends — well, class­mates — well, fren­e­mies — each with their own prob­lems, and each with their own rea­sons for need­ing a trans-dimen­sion­al quest.

The Unfin­ished Cor­ner con­tains strong female char­ac­ters, diverse depic­tions of Jews (obser­vant, indif­fer­ent, and wrestling-with-it!) (Jews of col­or and from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and social class­es!). The nar­ra­tive moves breath­less­ly, always giv­ing the read­er a lot to think about, and nev­er reduc­ing its char­ac­ters to stereo­types or resort­ing to sim­ple answers. The demons aren’t evil, and the ordered uni­verse isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly always ordered in the right way. Beyond its well-researched scrip­tur­al source mate­r­i­al, there’s a lot of heart to this sto­ry, and it mir­rors the pre­teen strug­gle toward under­stand­ing — and tak­ing to heart — the rich and unabashed­ly weird her­itage of Jew­ish stories.