A Guide for the Perplexed
By Dara Horn
W.W. Norton and Co. September 2013
From the library
Josie is a wildly successful computer programmer. She created Genizah, an accessible storehouse of all of your memories. The program utilizes your phone, computer, and other devices and records every moment of your life. With time, the program can even predict what you will do. When her jealous sister Judith convinces her to go to Egypt and consult on her program there, disaster strikes. Josie is kidnapped and held for ransom. Judith seizes the opportunity to comfort Josie's terrified husband and daughter.
A Guide for the Perplexed also introduces readers to two other characters - Moses Maimonides, a philosopher and author of the original Guide for the Perplexed; and Solomon Schechter, a professor who discovered an incredible stash of books and documents in a synagogue's genizah. Their stories complement Josie's as Moses ponders why bad things happen to good people and Solomon looks for meaning among a sea of text and in his own life.
This book has so many layers and is so nuanced that I am still thinking about it weeks after finishing the story. I am disappointed to only be discovering this author now, but thrilled that she has a backlist for me to experience. I should have known I would love Dara Horn. After I started reading, I happened to turn the book over and see a glowing endorsement from Geraldine Brooks, an author who I greatly admire. It's one thing to find a book that you adore. It's something even better to discover an author whose writing is beautiful, whose characters are complex, and whose work makes you really think about the things you take for granted.
At its most basic level, this is a book about family and the ways that we hurt each other and save each other. But then Ms. Horn adds so much more as her characters contemplate questions that are both timeless and immediate. What are the limits of technology? How will we be remembered and who or what will do the remembering? Are we hurting our relationships by recording everything instead of really living? Ms. Horn has beautifully entwined questions about the limits of technology with a timeless exploration of love, faith, and what exactly we are doing here on planet Earth.