Life & Culture

The Matchmaker’s Gift Book review: Romantic pairing down the generations

Lynda Cohen Loigman's enjoyable romance lacks nuance but its succinct storylines do not outstay their welcome


The Matchmaker’s Gift
by Lynda Cohen Loigman
St. Martin’s Press £24.99

Lynda Cohen Loigman’s romantic new novel sets out, as so many American-Jewish families did, on a trip from turn-of-the-century Europe to New York.

As the Glickman clan set sail for the New World, their youngest member Sara discovers her power for spotting basherts, scoring her older sister an ideal husband on the cramped deck.

We soon fast-forward to the 1990s, meeting Sara’s high-flying divorce lawyer granddaughter Abby, who is grieving for her late grandmother and questioning if she shares her gift.

The book continues to delve neatly in and out of Sara and Abby’s timelines in ways that keep the story fresh and varied.

Abby’s struggle with her profit-driven profession mirrors Sara’s intense clashes with the male shadchans eager to preserve their monopoly on matchmaking in early-twentieth-century New York, for instance, giving both characters room to encounter conflict and summon courage.

Equally moving are Sara and Abby’s experiences with grief. Abby’s fractious relationship with her largely absent father also touches on the losses felt between living family members, before and after family breakdown became commonplace. Cohen Loigman’s smooth prose deftly contextualises most references to Jewish traditions and Yiddish terms.

Most notably perhaps, the novel defies the premise of so many such short, romance-centred works by focusing more on how the protagonists work toward the fulfilment of others rather than accelerating them towards their own romantic finales.

Yet while the matchmaking gifts of its leading ladies bind the narrative together, it raises many questions that go unanswered.

Does the ability to perceive soulmate pairings imply that every person has just one ideal match available? Is it not the case that, in real life and in Judaism, there may be more than one divinely intended partner that could suit a person, and equally, that one may need to change or improve oneself before the match might be possible?

For Loigman Cohen, characters are either innately right or wrong for each other, case closed.
Sara and Abby’s ability to secure inherently suitable romantic pairings combines the “soulmate” idealism of most modern romcoms with an essentially conservative outlook on marriage.

Yet this novel’s careful contradictions appear part of the charm, and its succinct storylines do not outstay their welcome.

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