Kabbalah, Supernatural Bug Juice, and Other Camp Delights


Ah, Jewish summer camp memories: Bunk raids, incessant singing, daddy longlegs crawling everywhere, and of course mystical, supernatural adventures. Maybe not that last one, unless you’re the protagonist in Ari Goelman’s debut novel, The Path of Names.

Dahlia, a sarcastic 13-year-old, is a newcomer to sleepaway camp but has already noticed some weird occurrences. During her first week, she observes two girls walking through the walls of her bunk, dreams that a 1940s yeshiva student battles a cruel adversary, and puzzles over the camp caretaker’s strange insistence on keeping campers away from a The Shining-style hedge maze deep in the forest.

Goelman’s thoughtful young-adult fantasy novel effortlessly fuses its mystical Jewish content and typical teen fiction tropes: Gematria and golems are as central to the story as the camp’s mean girls and ephemeral crushes. The authentic feel of the novel comes from the 13 years Goelman spent at Camp Galil in Ottsville, Pennsylvania, he climbed the ranks from camper to counselor to, eventually, camp director.

This book will transport you back to days of campouts and color war, but probably with more magical rabbis than you’re accustomed to.

Watch Goelman speak about the connection between his PhD work and teen fiction:

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