Title: The Belief in Angels
Author: J. Dylan Yates
Published: 28th April 2014
By: She Writes Press
First line:Sometimes, in order to tell a story well, so it's truly understood, you have to tell it out of order.
Last line: Survive for your family who pray that they will see you again; survive for all who could not.
Synopsis: Growing up in her parents’ crazy hippie household on a tiny island off the coast of Boston, Jules’s imaginative sense of humor is the weapon she wields to dodge household chaos. But somewhere between routine discipline with horsewhips, gun-waving gambling debt collectors, and LSD-laced breakfast cereal adventures, tragedy strikes with the death of her younger brother—a blow from which Jules may never fully recover.
Jules’ story alternates with that of her Grandfather Samuel, a man with a sad story of his own. Samuel, once called Szaja, is an orthodox Jew who lived through the murderous Ukranian pogroms of the 1920s and the Majdanek Death Camp—but whose survival came at a price that’s haunted him for years.
This is not an easy book to read and I would question whether this should be labelled as 'new adult'. The NA category I thought applied to readers who considered themselves too 'grown-up' for YA but were looking for something in a similar vein with perhaps a touch of spice. The Belief in Angels is, for me, more of an adult read, mostly because of the content of the book.
The two tales that are interwoven are written beautifully and J. Dylan Yates manages to evoke a gamut of emotions. I found myself swinging from utter rage at the selfishness of Jules's parents who needed more than a slap and the tale of Samael and his struggle to survive the nazi atrocities and to exist back in the real world afterwards.
Many reviewers have described this as a coming of age tale but I would argue that the story content is too complex and at times traumatic to be considered so. Instead, I would say this book is more a story of survival. It shows how a person's character can be strengthened by an existence which seems all out to destroy them and that no matter how dysfunctional a family may be one can choose to take a better, more peaceful path.
If you're looking for something away from the norm, something that will pull at the heartstrings more than a tad then this may be the book for you.
4/5 - Well worth a read.