Invisible City Discussion Questions – The End

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

All of us have survived the scene in the garage between Miriam including Rebekah – all that is except Miriam.

The novel neatly wraps up the murder of Rivka, but leaves us wondering about Rebekah and her relationships with Tony, her father, and the possibility of finally reuniting with her mother.

What did you think of the story?  Were there issues that you had with either the writing, the story, the depiction of Hasids?  Come on now I know you have opinions!

There is a second book out now, Run You Down, that deals with another murder. This time the story is set in the ultra-Orthodox Upstate town of Roseville, N.Y. (could it be based upon the town of Kiryas Joel?)

Would you be interested in following Rebekah’s story?

I’ll introduce our next novel next time.4th of July

Have a happy 4th.


Invisible City – Discussion Questions – Part 4 (Spoiler Alert)

Onto the murder.

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

If you’ve finished the book (and I hope that you have by now because I’m going to ruin it if you haven’t) we must talk about the murder(s).

After Saul is arrested Malka and Sara take the notes about Shoshanna and Rivka’s murders to Rebekah.  There had been talk earlier in the book about the death of Rivka’s daughter but up until now it was just blown off as accidental.  Given the brutal death of Rivka were you surprised that the two deaths were connected?

Before Malka hands over the evidence it is important to her to explain why her community is so protective and insular when it comes to policing (it is not the first time that Dahl has a character convey this).

We know that to survive we must rely on one another, we must support and protect our fellow Jews.  We do not do this because we do not believe that sin should be punished.  We do this because the strength of the community is vital to our survival. (page 249)

Malka wants Rebekah to understand – do you? If one does come from such a community can an outsider truly learn about the deep-rooted fears from being told?

Do you think that, given the nature of the crimes, Shomrim should have investigated murderfurther?  Were they protecting the community?  Do you think that there connection with the Mendolssohns clouded their judgement?  Do you think that they suspected Miriam’s responsibility, or do you think that they were covering for Aron?

While Aron was not primarily responsible for the death of his daughter or his wife he did suspect how dangerous Miriam was.  While he may have to live with his culpability, what if anything do you think his punishment should be?

When Malka brings the information she says,” I do not wish to invite scrutiny by people who do not respect our way of life, but the secrets have to stop.  The community can heal, but individual people, boys and girls, they cannot.”

Can a community heal when wounds like murder, infanticide, etc. are hidden?  Do you think any community can truly police itself? Can a police force that doesn’t understand the inner workings of such a community fairly oversee them?

Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part 3 (Spoiler Alert)

failedDrat and double drat.

I have failed technology and technology has failed me.  I was in the middle (and oh so close to the end) of a blog post and didn’t hit “save draft” and it didn’t auto-save, so here I go again.

Rebekah has come a long way from Florida to become a reporter.  She insists that her need to begin her career in the toughest place to find a job doing that has nothing to do with her mother.

While she tries to convince herself how much of this do you buy?

Not only is she conflicted about her reasoning for heading to NY, but she manages to come in contact with many who, like her mother, have questioned Hasidic tenants and practices.

In a community that requires strict adherence to traditional beliefs Rebekah manages to find herself surrounded by those who are questioning.  How easy do you think it would actually be to, as an outsider, quickly connect with such individuals.  Did Rebekah’s story ring true?


Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part 2 (Spoiler Alert)

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

Re-reading the novel I get to the point where Rebekah is waiting at the gas station convenience store trying to get warm and describing how cold it is outside.

“I guess I’m a better reporter in the summertime, it was never once this cold in Florida, and even under all these layers I feel painfully exposed by the temperature.  My bones feel like brittle aluminum rods, barely holding me up, scraping together, sucking up the cold and keeping it.  One poke and I’ll crumble to the ground.

I, like so many characters in the novel, am so affected by the presence of the naked body of the woman in the freezing cold clutches of the machine.

Did you feel the same?

Could this section have evoked a similar emotional response had the weather been more gentle?

Dahl has, during this particular section, seemingly made the cold a pivotal character. Do you feel as though Brooklyn is as well?  There is much talk later in the novel about Rebekah’s mother living in Kiryas Joel, another Jewish enclave in New York State, can you imagine this story set there?  The Jewish community in Borough Park is sets itself apart from the rest of NYC, but is still functioning within the city.  Could this story have been set in a more geographically isolated area like Kiryas Joel?

Invisible City – Discussion Questions Part One (Spoiler Alert)

May/June 2015

May/June 2015

So much to discuss in this book I’ve been stumped about where to begin so I think I’ll just start where the story begins.

When we meet Rebekah she is a very young, and dare I say naive, newspaper stringer working on a story about a dead body found in a scrap heap in Brooklyn. Motivated by more than a reporters need for a good story, Rebekah makes errors in judgment.  Would a more seasoned reporter have been able to see past the lies and misrepresentations?  Did her naivete work in her favor or hinder her assignment?coates

How did her abandonment by her Hasidic mother help propel her need for closure of the case?  Did it?

As she investigates the crime she is able, with a bit (major help?) of help from Saul Katz, to get a glimpse of a world that outsiders wouldn’t normally have.  Did this ring true to you?

Julia Dahl – Invisible City

Our globetrotting literary tour continues.

We’ve gone from Alaska back to the East Coast – Brooklyn to be specific.  It’s nice tmaps_borough_park_o know that all it will take to get from there to here is a trip on mass transit – no I don’t recommend the BQE I have been in the most horrific traffic going through and to Brooklyn.

juliadahlBefore we get to know the characters I always like to introduce you to their creator. Our next author is Julia Dahl – this time in her own words.

I was born and raised in Fresno, Calif. I stumbled onto the staff of my high school newspaper in 1994 and have been chasing stories ever since. I have been an editor at Marie Claire, a stringer for the New York Post, a staff writer for The Crime Report, and I now work producing articles and video about crime and justice for Crimesider, the 48 Hours blog on

My first novel, a murder mystery entitled “INVISIBLE CITY,” will be published by Minotaur Books in May 2014.

I’ve written features about subjects ranging from suicide-by-cop to prosecuting rape to my own involvement in the unsolved murder of a Hurricane Katrina victim for publications including the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Pacific Standard (formerly Miller-McCune), Seventeen, Salon and the Columbia Journalism Review.

I have lived on-and-off in NYC since 1999 and now reside in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I am a massive Bruce Springsteen fan and consider David Simon, Joan Didion and Katherine Boo my literary/journalistic idols.(Source:

The Jericho Public Library subscribes to a database “Gale Literature
Resource Center” it offers a substantial biography of Ms. Dahl.  You can access this database via the Jericho Public Library website. Visit, click on the “Databases” tab and then click on “Adults.”  You can find the database either on the A-Z listing or click on the link for LiteratureYou will then need to enter your Jericho Public Library barcode (all fourteen numbers with no spaces.)

Our Next Selection

invisible cityThis time around I thought I would try a mystery, so our next selection is Invisible City by Julia Dahl.

Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it’s clear that she’s not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider. (Source:

Pick up a copy at the circulation desk or download a copy from Overdrive and stop back for the discussion.