Jacob’s Folly

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Something amazing had happened to my sight: it was as if the top of my head had been removed and replaced with an enormous eye. I could see jagged purple clouds drifting above me, the streets stretching away at either side, and the houses below. This is how angels see, I marveled.”

Jacob Cerf would soon learn that he was not reincarnated as an angel, but to his dismay, as an ordinary fly. He would soon realize though, that he possessed the power and intuition to see a person’s past and to influence the human mind. Of course, this is over two hundred years after his death at the age of 31.

Jacob lived in eighteenth-century Paris as a Jewish peddler. He was a teenage groom, victim to an unhappy arranged marriage. Though Jews accepted their inferior legal and social status, Jacob was determined to better himself.  However, he fought an inner struggle between change and tradition.

Fast forward to present day Long Island. Jacob, the fly, spends his days with Leslie, a volunteer fireman. Though Leslie’s life seems pretty boring in the eyes of Jacob, it’s all about to change. Jacob accompanies him to a hospital where he falls for a patient– twenty one year old Masha, an orthodox Jew.  He immediately identifies with her as she expresses the same conflict between achieving her dream and maintaining her tradition and faith. He realizes that his love for her is absurd and that he could never have her, so he would have to remain content to have the power to change her destiny.

The elaborate plot switches between Jacob’s life as a human and the lives of the people he sees as a fly.  Tradition, rebellion, superstition, love, prejudice, perversion, obsession–it’s all part of this colorful and well-written novel.

Though I enjoyed all parts of this book and really couldn’t put it down, I found the chapters centered around his dramatic, but brief  ‘human’ life especially fascinating. Initially the logical part of my brain kept interfering with the story. Questions like “What happened between his life as a human and when he was reincarnated as a fly?” kept creeping in my mind. When my friend just told me to “go with it”, I decided to do just that. And yes, I’m sure glad I did.

Jacob’s Folly is so original and such a page-turner, that I suggest that you do the same. You won’t be disappointed.


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