The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: Hard seltzer. I’m not going to tell you how many because it was a dreadfully low number to be tipsy off of.
Oy! to the world
Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.
But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg
Though Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah—and Jacob—in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze.
Drunk Overview: This book is perfect to review now because as I write this, it’s the first night of Hanukah (11/28) which I know because my corner of the internet taught me so. Rachel is the daughter of a world-famous rabbi (her dad) and a OBGYN (her mom) and writes Christmas novels because she loves Christmas, until her publisher tells her they want her to write a Hanukah novel. Meanwhile, her camp crush, a guy named Jacob has lived through tragedy and now runs a party planning company who is going to host the Matzah ball, on the last night of Hanukah. Clearly, they’re going to run into each other.
Drunk Thoughts: There were a ton of things I liked about this book and a ton of things I didn’t. Get ready for a random assortment of assorted thoughts.
- PUBLISHING DOESN’T WORK LIKE IT DOES IN THIS BOOK. YOU CAN’T GET A BOOK PUBLISHED AND IN STORES IN LESS THAN A WEEK, IT DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT. And if that wasn’t what this book was implying, then parts of it probably needed a bit of rework.
- I really enjoyed learning a little more about Jewish customs, and I really appreciated the way this book approached them, there were definitions at time, but a lot of it came from context clues, and just in general, that charmed me.
- The rest of the cast was… okay? I mean, this was basically a Jewish Hallmark movie so I’m willing to handwave a lot.
- I really enjoyed her parents. There was a gay best friend who was fine, and a super Jewish best friend who was also fine.
- I did really enjoy the snippets of Rachel and Jacob at summer camp. It gave more depth to the story and made the fact that they were still hung up on things from like 15 years ago more believable.
- Rachel was a really interesting protagonist as she dealt with Chronic Fatigue, and the book didn’t shy over that.
- In the past few months, I’ve ended up reading a few books with characters with chronic illnesses and each one has a different perspective (obviously, everyone is different), but I’m glad this is something I’ve been able to find in books.
- But also, she LOVES Christmas, and secretly watches Hallmark movies and has an office that’s over-filled with Christmas stuff. It was fun to see someone enjoy that, but also realize how their own history and customs had value (not that she didn’t know they held value, but there’s something about growing up with a parent who is a BIG DEAL that makes certain customs confining rather than… I lost my words).
- Okay, so the plot. Jacob has a tendency to take things too far, which is a really interesting character trait, and probably does great with party planning. But it’s interesting to watch how the past and his own experiences could blind him to his own minor cruelty.
- Also, I forgot this, Jacob’s grandmother is amazing! She’s loving and feisty and just general a joy to read.
- I really enjoyed how so much between these two is chemistry and miscommunication that does get solved.
- Also, this is a negative note. There is a chase scene in this book that is clearly meant to be a movie and I DID NOT THINK IT WOKRED IN A BOOK. It just felt oddly slapstick where the rest of the book didn’t.
- But also, this is a book where (eventually) the characters talk. They talk about their feelings, and why they’ve been hurt, and how to heal and it’s beautiful.
- Overall this book was a very sweet, very fun read.
What it Pairs With: Gin & Ginger. You need something sweet for the season, with just a hint of bubbles.