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by David Jacob

Pub Date: April 21st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1456421427
Publisher: CreateSpace

Jacob’s debut novel follows a young Jewish man in search of himself in the early 1970s.

The bar mitzvah of Richard Zelman—an overweight, social misfit from California—is a disaster. Richard’s family’s humiliation is complete when he devolves into overwhelmed silence while at the synagogue’s podium and must be hand-fed his entire speech by the rabbi, to the horror of his family and the entire congregation. His only escape is an imaginary friend, Nygel Ply, who is his respite from a wretched life that’s capsizing him, despite his valiant efforts to rise to the surface. Richard attempts to leave his mistakes behind by moving to Europe and establishing a new identity as Nygel Ply, someone he never could manage to become while stateside. The bulk of the novel is the poignant, introspective journey of young Nygel as he meanders across Europe. The author effortlessly draws the reader into Nygel’s world as he meets various strangers who redirect his life from aimless wandering to working as a teacher at an English home for mentally challenged children. The secondary characters Nygel connects with are skillfully drafted, flawed people whose struggles both touch Nygel’s heart and facilitate his inner growth. Jacob’s use of setting is extraordinary; the streets of LA, small British pubs, a small English town, a terrifying encounter with border guards in Turkey all enliven Richard’s travels. Intricate details bring the varied settings to life, but do not intrude on the narrative.

A well-written, insightful account of abandoning self-identity to ultimately reclaim it.