In the Image 3.5★

Dara Horn’s richly symbolic narrative In the Image is a generational tale of suffering, love, and the ties that bind us to each other. 

Leora is a Jewish girl in New Jersey, whose otherwise ordinary life is marked by tragic coincidences and incredible twists of fate. Her best friend, Naomi Landsmann, is killed as a young girl. This loss devastates Leora, forever changing her and linking her to the Landsmann family. Naomi’s grandfather tries to bestow upon Leora the gift of history that he once hoped to give his granddaughter. Leora, unnerved by his apparent desire to substitute her for Naomi, rebuffs his friendship. 

Many years later however, Leora’s is gripped by her discovery of a pair of antique tefillin. Her fascination with the crumbling prayer boxes lead her further towards her fateful connection to the Landsmann family. Nagging questions pull her towards this destiny, through a swirl of history and secrets, to a love that will ease her hurting soul. 

Strange, vivid, and mysterious, In the Image is a gripping tale written with poetic beauty. Horn’s characters face the common hardships of their historical eras as well as unique “fatal accidents” that plunge them into new and frightening chapters. The narrative explores generations of Jewish traditions and a range of Jewish orthodoxy in an intimately personal manner. 

While Horn’s story is evocative and alluring, it is also jarringly disjointed. Fate plays an essential role in the story, and yet the meaning and significance of many coincidences often remains unclear. Each passage creates a beautiful, poignant image, but readers are sometimes left wondering what connects those images to each other and what the collection as a whole could mean. 

Despite the questions that In the Image leaves unanswered (or perhaps because of them), the novel pulls readers into its surreal world and stays with them when they go.

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