The Matchmaker’s Gift, by Lynda Cohen Loigman
This rich and rewarding novel is based on Jewish history. Sara, age 10, searches for someone to lend her older sister a clean handkerchief while traveling by ship from Eastern Europe to New York City in 1910. In choosing the man to lend her sister the handkerchief, Sara accidentally starts her career as a Jewish matchmaker, typically a man’s job during that time period.
While settling into New York’s Lower East Side, Sara goes on to make several matches between people she knows and interacts with regularly. The male shadchanim of her community are threatened by her success, and speak out against losing their livelihood to a young unmarried girl (even as she becomes a woman). Sara tries to stop making matches as a result of their criticisms, but when that proves to be too painful, she stands up for herself and advocates to the community for her right to her chosen profession.
The chapters alternate between Sara in the early 1900s and her granddaughter, Abby, who works at a divorce firm in the 1990s. As Abby learns more about her grandmother’s past, she begins to wonder if she has some of her grandmother’s abilities. This book is an interesting peek into US Jewish immigrant history, our matchmaking tradition, and strong women who are not afraid to go after their dreams.
Review by Marisa Lewitan