In Rebecca Miller’s dazzling and inventive new novel, we meet characters separated by time but united in their desire to live a life of their own choosing, free from the constraints of community and tradition.
In eighteenth-century Paris, Jacob Cerf is a Jewish street peddler burdened by a disastrous young marriage but determined to raise himself up by whatever means he can. His richly observed life in Paris’ Jewish ghetto is radically altered when he gains entrance to the opulent world of the aristocracy and the freedom to create his own identity. More than two hundred years later, Jacob reappears in surprising form in the suburbs of Long Island. He soon becomes obsessed by a young Orthodox Jewish woman with a secret ambition. Determined to change her fate, Jacob takes it upon himself to entangle her with a conflicted volunteer fireman. As Jacob’s mischievous plans unfold, the burdens of duty and the pull of desire will twist the lives of all three.
Rebecca Miller explores the hold of the past on the present, the power of private hopes and dreams, the collision of fate and free will, and change in all of their various guises. Transfiguring her world with a clear gaze and sharp, surprising wit, she brings Jacob’s Folly vividly to life.