And just like that, here’s our last book club pick for 2021 (we’re taking a break for the holidays)! Can you believe it? We are overj(oy)ed to announce we are reading Jean Meltzer’s The Matzah Ball this month! It’s a beautiful story about celebration and the understanding that everyone is worthy of love.
Pick up your copy, RSVP to our Facebook event happening on Tuesday, November 23 at 1:00 p.m. EST, and dig in! Don’t forget to join in on all the fun by following @BookClubbish and using the hashtag #ReadWithBookClubbish on social media.
The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer
“The Matzah Ball had me laughing out loud…an all-around terrific read.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author
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.
“A luminous celebration of all types of love, threaded with the message that everyone is worthy of it.”—Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of The Ex Talk
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Discussion Questions for The Matzah Ball
- Though they were both raised in the Jewish faith, Rachel and Jacob had very different upbringings. How do you think their childhoods influenced their characters as adults?
- Rachel’s family is Jewish, but she loves Christmas. Have you ever had an affinity for a holiday or event that your family didn’t celebrate?
- What did you think of Rachel’s decision to hide her career from her family for most of her adult life? Would you hide something of importance from your family if you felt they wouldn’t understand it?
- Rachel and Mickey are best friends since forever. How did you feel about the way their friendship was depicted in the story? Do you have a friend you’re as close with as they are with one another? What has that friendship meant to you in your life?
- Living with chronic illness has affected Rachel’s life in almost every way imaginable. What, if anything, did you learn about myalgic encephalomyelitis, aka chronic fatigue syndrome?
- Rachel feels frustrated that the more commonly known term for her illness, chronic fatigue syndrome, comes with a certain amount of stigma, and people don’t take it seriously. Can you think of any other conditions that are treated similarly by the general public?
- Both Rachel’s mother and Jacob’s bubbe tend to feed (or overfeed!) their loved ones. This is considered a common way to show affection in many cultures, including the Jewish culture. What are some traditions in your culture, and how are they expressed in your family?
- Though Rachel and Jacob did not personally experience it, they are both influenced by the Holocaust in subtle ways. What are some ways in which that influence manifests itself? Are there any events in your family history that continue to influence you today, even though you did not directly experience them?
- Rachel quotes Midrash, saying, “God only works through broken vessels.” What do you think Rachel means when she says this? How do Rachel and Jacob both come to accept, and create meaning out of, their brokenness?
- On Hanukkah, Jews use a shamash, one flame that lights all the candles on the chanukiyah. What are some of the ways that the characters in The Matzah Ball act like a shamash, spreading light to others?
- What are some Jewish traditions and rituals you recognized while reading The Matzah Ball? Was there anything that surprised you? Are there any traditions you would like to learn more about or incorporate into your own life?
- Who was your favorite character and why?
- If you could cast the movie version of The Matzah Ball, who would you cast as the leads? How about the secondary characters?
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Do you have a question for Jean Meltzer? Post them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them live on Facebook!