So, I’m either late or really early for holiday reads but who cares. I loved this rom-com about a Jewish writer of Christmas rom-coms whose life turns into a rom-com when she’s pressured into writing a Hanukkah rom-com.
Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is hiding her Christmas stories from her parents and her chronic fatigue syndrome from the world. Jacob Greenberg runs a multi-million-dollar event business in Paris that masks his fear of abandonment. They broke each other’s 12-year-old hearts at a Jewish summer camp 18 years before and have been archenemies ever since.
When Rachel discovers that Jacob is throwing the Matzah Ball Max in Manhattan and he’ll be spending Shabbat with her parents, she decides she needs to go to the ball as research and inspiration for the Hanukkah romance her publisher wants and travels to Long Island to see him. Jacob tells her the only way she can get a ticket is to volunteer to help set up the ball for the next 8 days, working from dawn to dusk, for him. She reluctantly agrees and what ensues is a perfect tale of difficult truths, delayed love, and apricot rugalach.
I enjoyed every word of The Matzah Ball. So many genuinely sweet characters, like Rachel’s mother, her BFF Mickey and Jacob’s 92-year-old bubbe, Toby. The deft weaving of Rachel and Jacob’s past and present, the things they’d chosen to hide and the things they choose to reveal, create a rich and engaging story. And so many of the scenes have a cinematic quality—a 10-foot lighted menorah, a secret room filled with Christmas decorations and a crazy matzah ball costume—I’ve heard the movie rights have sold and I can’t wait!
I loved that author Jean Meltzer celebrates her heritage throughout this book and I don’t think it matters whether you’re Jewish, a lapsed cradle Catholic like me or anything in between, you’ll enjoy and maybe learn from all the Judaic stories and references. She also quietly educates about myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, which she shares with her lead character, Rachel.
Even though it’s 385 pages, The Matzah Ball was a quick read that I was sorry to see end because I was just having so much fun! Now I have to wait until August 9 for her next book, Mr. Perfect on Paper, about the romantic woes of a Jewish matchmaker.