Jacob Cerf is a Jew living in eighteenth-century Paris who peddles his wares on the streets for a living. His life is a disaster. He’s been duped into marrying a complete nightmare of a wife, and when the opportunity arises to escape his hellish existence, he’s forced to take it; it seems to be the lesser of two evils. What happened after that is still a bit hazy — he knows he died at some point — but when he wakes up, everything is moving so fast: it’s now the twenty-first century, and for whatever reason, he’s been reincarnated in Long Island…as a fly.
He may have started out as a devout Jew, but by the time Jacob died, he’d long since considered himself to be freed from the bonds of religion and gladly participated in all kinds of debauchery. Unlike most Jews in eighteenth-century Paris, Jacob had managed to achieve unthinkable success and acceptance in French society by the time of his death. Now that he’s been reincarnated, he still harbors a mean streak and a superiority complex. Enter Leslie Senzatimore, a kindhearted volunteer fire fighter, and Masha, a beautiful Orthodox Jew who is struggling with her faith. Jacob is convinced that he has the power to control her and Leslie. What follows is a twisted experiment in change, destiny, and free will.
I’d always heard great things about Rebecca Miller’s novels, but prior to reading Jacob’s Folly, I was only familiar with her films (that, and the fact that she’s a total badass who’s married to Daniel Day-Lewis: talk about a power couple). I read a glowing tweet about this book from Marie before the book was released and preordered it on the spot — I trust Marie’s taste in literary fiction that much! For real. She’s the only other person I know who’s read Second Person Singular! — and I was not disappointed. I adored this book!
Jacob’s Folly could have gone very wrong very fast. Instead? It’s a fun, inventive, and gorgeously-written book that’s filled with Miller’s wicked sense of humor. I will now proceed to read everything she’s ever written (which people have been telling me to do for ages anyway)! But seriously: this one has a guaranteed spot on my Best of 2013 list. It’s awesome.
Jacob’s Folly was published in March 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.