Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"The Angel of Losses"

Stephanie Feldman studied writing at the University of Pennsylvania and Barnard College. NPR calls her first novel, The Angel of Losses, "a breathtakingly accomplished debut" and The Washington Post describes it as "a journey of fantastic tales, stormy family ties and a tragic discovery of redemption that will break your heart." Barnes & Noble has named the book a Discover Great New Writers selection for fall 2014. Feldman lives outside Philadelphia with her family and is at work on a new novel.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Angel of Losses and reported the following:
The Angel of Losses is a few different stories in one: mystery, fantasy, historical, and domestic realism. I'm afraid that last element sometimes gets lost in discussion about the book, so I'm glad that page 69, the first page of chapter three, is about the two sisters at the heart of the novel.

Marjorie, a young graduate student, narrates The Angel of Losses, and here she describes the beginning of her younger sister Holly's conversion to Orthodox Judaism, which ultimately leads to the sisters’ estrangement.
During Holly’s first semester at college, she fell into a whirlwind romance with a guy on her floor—he was tall, pre-med, from Connecticut, so good on paper that my mother began fantasizing and fretting about their life together. I hated listening to her excited speculation. I had never had a boyfriend serious enough for those kinds of conversations, and her claims of pride over my English Department awards sounded dry, forced. I was jealous.

My sister didn’t have a lot in common with her roommate, an Orthodox Jewish girl from Brooklyn who seemed to have arrived at school with a hundred of her closest friends. She was nice, but she ate at the kosher cafeteria with her girlfriends and disappeared all Friday and Saturday. Holly spent more and more time with her boyfriend. They slept in his room almost every night, studied side by side for Chemistry 101 and Introduction to Architecture, arrived at every party hand in hand.

My mother’s worries shifted from the future to the present. “I think he’s Holly’s only friend,” she said.
I like that we end here on that line, suggesting Holly's loneliness, something that Marjorie fails to recognize until it's far too late. The Angel of Losses is about a rebellious wizard, a sinister angel, a family curse (or gift)—but it's also about how two sisters get lost in their own grief, and ultimately, find their way out of it again.
Visit Stephanie Feldman's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Angel of Losses made Nicole Hill's list of five of the best new girl-powered sci-fi and fantasy novels.

--Marshal Zeringue