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Synchronicities on the Avenue of the Saints
Deborah Gaal, author
Racing to beat the clock before an experimental drug steals his mind, bipolar physicist Noah Friedman joins forces with his burnt-out CEO mom, his failed journalist friend, an African Shaman, and a Russian Revolution-Era ghost to halt the launch of this deadly med, stop a pharmaceutical kingpin from raiding the family business, and prove that love creates a synchronicity with what and who is loved.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: Gaal's whip-smart plot compels from the first page. The choice to give the protagonist a bipolar diagnosis seems to be handled with respect and the effort is there to avoid it being merely a plot device; however, some of the discussions e.g. around treatment and medication, may read as less sensitive or delicately handled than the rest of the plot.

Prose: Gaal's prose is as distinct and sharp as the plot. At times hilarious and other times serious, it matches the pace of the novel beat for beat.

Originality: Despite being a fun and highly engaging journey, the story plays directly into many conventions of the genre.

Character/Execution: There's a wild cast of characters found throughout this novel. As a protagonist, Noah is sometimes the least compelling person on the page; however, his experiences are so riveting, it's easy to over look. Additionally, the relationships between him and his band of misfits is more than entertaining enough to make up for any potential weaknesses in character development.

Date Submitted: August 31, 2020

Reviews
Gaal’s second magical realism novel (after The Dream Stitcher) follows physicist Noah Friedman and his adoring businesswoman mother, Sally, as they grapple with Noah’s bipolar disorder plus a decades-ago family curse. When Noah’s great-grandma, Sara, fled Russia in the early 20th century, her family promised Hadassah, a fellow villager, that they would deliver a valuable heirloom to her nephew in America. Instead, Sara’s family took the wealth for themselves. Now Sara has died and Hadassah is haunting Noah in present-day 2002. Simultaneously, Noah receives an ominous message that the drug he takes to manage his disorder, Selexikote—which was developed by his psychiatrist and is owned by his mother’s pharmaceutical company—is dangerous, sending him on a journey to both rid the world of the drug and rectify his family’s offenses. He works with a shaman to invoke his ancestors and rewrite the past, while fighting Selexikote and Duschene, the evil corporation trying to buy his mother’s company.

This saga spans generations, cultures, and dimensions, ultimately paying off with a tightly connected finale. Gaal successfully balances the down-to-earth and the fantastical with stunning imagery and cleverly constructed parallels—or “synchronicities,” as Noah calls them; Hadassah’s descendant, Bernard, coincidentally works for Duschene, giving the families a chance for repentance.

Skillful, memorable prose (“they shared the same blue eyes—cobalt, Co, atomic number twenty-seven—and trademark red hair—copper, Cu, twenty-nine”) assures readers they’re in good hands. And it’s heartwarming to watch Noah and Sally rectify their strained relationship by repairing their family’s past. This multigenerational epic of family strife and healing will charm readers.

Takeaway: The magical realism of this multigenerational epic will transport readers.

Great for fans of: Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists, Ellen Galford’s The Dyke and the Dybbuk, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B+

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