The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman #NetGalley #ARCReview

Is finding true love a calling or a curse?

Even as a child in 1910, Sara Glikman knows her gift: she is a maker of matches and a seeker of soulmates. But among the pushcart-crowded streets of New York’s Lower East Side, Sara’s vocation is dominated by devout older men—men who see a talented female matchmaker as a dangerous threat to their traditions and livelihood. After making matches in secret for more than a decade, Sara must fight to take her rightful place among her peers, and to demand the recognition she deserves.

Two generations later, Sara’s granddaughter, Abby, is a successful Manhattan divorce attorney, representing the city’s wealthiest clients. When her beloved Grandma Sara dies, Abby inherits her collection of handwritten journals recording the details of Sara’s matches. But among the faded volumes, Abby finds more questions than answers. Why did Abby’s grandmother leave this library to her and what did she hope Abby would discover within its pages? Why does the work Abby once found so compelling suddenly feel inconsequential and flawed? Is Abby willing to sacrifice the career she’s worked so hard for in order to keep her grandmother’s mysterious promise to a stranger? And is there really such a thing as love at first sight?”

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Matchmaker’s Gift (Amazon) from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The book will be released September 20, 2022.

What a wonderful story. I could not put it down. With this historical fiction novel, there are two timelines: Sara Glikman’s, which begins on the ship to New York City in 1910, and her granddaughter Abby’s life in 1994 in that same city. Sara shows a gift for matchmaking, which is called a shadchanit in Jewish culture. But the old male counterparts spy on her and put pressure on her because she’s “taking business away from them.” Abby is a divorce attorney who enjoyed her grandmother’s stories about matchmaking but really didn’t believe them. Until the same gift reveals itself to her.

First off, let me say, and I wish more books would do this, when the Yiddish language is written, the author then gives a translation, which is very helpful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read books where another language is used and the reader is left to guess what was said. So props to Cohen Loigman for doing that. And secondly, I enjoyed learning about the Jewish culture in New York City during the early part of the last century. I know very little about it and enjoyed learning about different experiences and beliefs.

Abby reads her grandmother’s journal entries for various matches through the years, and then the reader is taken back in time to find out more of the story from Sara’s point of view. Sara was a feminist because she didn’t believe only married men could be matchmakers. She knew she had the gift, and when she became old enough and brave enough, started making matches out in the open after years of doing it on the sly. The old men are up in arms and there’s sort of a trial in front of local rabbis, who decide that Sara can be a matchmaker after all.

Abby’s life as a divorce attorney is complicated by the fact that one high-profile and high-paying client wants to divorce her husband, but Abby sees the two together and knows there’s still love there. So she goes behind her boss’ back and helps the woman. There’s also a second client, also high-profile and high-paying, who wants a pre-nuptial agreement put together. But Abby realizes that she’s found the man’s love match and sets about getting the two on the right path. Naturally, her boss finds out and fires her.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is that while there was romance for the secondary characters, the “romances” of Sara and Abby aren’t a big deal and they aren’t treated with a heavy hand. Indeed, this a “clean” book with no sex scenes in it. I’m not saying I’m a prude, but too often I’ve read good historical fiction and there’s a random sex scene for no other reason I can figure other than titillation. The Matchmaker’s Gift focuses on the love matches of others rather than the principals. I think after reading this book that I’m a believer of matchmakers, as old-fashioned as it seems. We all have to believe in a little magic now and then.

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