Title: Invisible City
Author: Julia Dahl
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Acquired: ARC from Netgalley
Date Finished: April 22, 2014
Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.
Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it’s clear that she’s not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.
I found this book to be absolutely fascinating. I knew nothing about the Hasidic community, and loved learning about a new culture. Subjection to new places and cultures is one of the reasons we read, right? I realize a murder mystery backdrop may not have given the most accurate portrayal of the community, but I think the author tried to be as impartial as possible. There are definite challenges facing a community that chooses to live apart from the world around it, and I thought that fact was accurately represented. I did not come away from this book with a negative vibe toward the Hasidic community. I was actually amazed at some of the information.
I have read a couple of other reviews of this book and there were some complaints about Dahl’s writing style being awful. I agree that the writing was not very flowery and leaned more toward the “just the facts, ma’am” approach, but considering the narrator was a newspaper reporter, it seemed appropriate. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good turn of phrase as much as the next girl, but it just wasn’t that big of a deal to me.
The mystery aspect of the book was not earth shattering. There was a little misdirection and sleight of hand, but I didn’t walk away thinking, “Wow! I never saw that coming.”
Overall, I thought it was good book. There was nothing horrible about it that tripped me up. The information about the Hasidic community and their interaction (or lack thereof) with outside society was fascinating. I also believe the author was trying to make a social commentary on reporters and media outlets, but I felt that fell a bit short.
If you like learning about new cultures, read this book. If you are looking for a beautifully written novel with deep emotion and meaning, this isn’t the one for you.
I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley, Invisible City and Julia Dahl for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.