Celebrating Jewish Literature: A rom-com about romance....

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

After being dumped

It’s bad enough that Lauren Leo is 41 and the last of her friends to marry. Well, to almost marry because in the opening chapter of Marilyn Simon Rothstein’s “Crazy to Leave You” (Lake Union Publishing) Lauren is dumped by her fiancé minutes before she is supposed to walk down the aisle. Some readers will think she dodged a bullet after learning how he did that and his not-exactly healthy relationship with his mother. But Lauren’s family is no picnic, either: her mother constantly harps (and harps and harps and harps....) at her about her weight and criticizes almost her every move. Lauren envies her younger sister, Stephanie, who is definitely their mother’s favorite child. Stephanie has the perfect job, a perfect husband and perfect children.

Lauren’s life is made more complicated when her older sister, Margo, shows up at her door and camps out in her apartment. Not only had Margo refused to come to Lauren’s wedding, she’s had no contact with their parents for ages. Although she claims to be there to support Lauren, Margo’s real purpose is to resurrect her acting career: the fact that she gained a great deal of weight damaged her chances for employment in California. Lauren throws herself into job at a public relations firm as an antidote to heartache and hopes her efforts will result by being made partner. An additional complication occurs when she’s injured in a car accident and needs a driver, Ruby Cohen, who at first annoys her with his attempts at conversation. However, she does grow fonder of him over time, although the nature of their relationship remains unclear to her. Then revelations from several of her friends make her doubt whether any romance can last a lifetime.

“Crazy to Leave You” includes several subplots that make it more complex reading than many rom-coms. They add depth to a work that features a fairly realistic look at the world, while also offering a fun romance. Parts of the plot offer topics for discussion at book clubs, including women’s body images and the glass ceiling that still exists in many workplaces. 

That is just like a TV movie (maybe)

There is a cable TV channel that warps women’s views of romance and the world. At least one could make that case after reading “As Seen on TV” by Meredith Schorr (Forever/Hachette Book Group). Adina Gellar is enamored with the channel’s movies that show a big city woman who goes to a small town to help prevent it from being exploited by a big city builder. Not only does the heroine come to love the town, but she finds true romance with a small-town hero. Unfortunately for Adina, life is far more complex than a made-for-TV movie would suggest. 

Adina is a freelance journalist who is hoping for her big break: a permanent job at an online magazine. The publisher loves her new idea, showing how a real estate magnate is ruining the small town of Pleasant Hollow. If her article is good enough, she’ll have that job. Unfortunately, Adina has to use to her own money for expenses; even though her mother helps, finances are tight. Even worse, Pleasant Hollow is far from the charming towns featured on that cable channel. Most people seem happy with the construction that’s happening, at least those who are even willing to talk to her, rather than finding her questions intrusive and annoying. Adina does meet an interesting man, only it turns out he’s working for her supposed villain, the real estate magnet. Is Adina wrong? Maybe small towns aren’t as wonderful as she believes, and maybe romance and happiness are different from what those TV movies have led her to expect.

“As Seen on TV” features some realistic subplots, which add more depth to the novel. Money troubles and a portrayal of a woman who is clear about her desires (career and sexual) create additional interest. But there is still plenty of fun and humor in this anti-TV-romance-movie work. 


That was destined to happen

Ever want to shake some sense into a novel’s main character? That occurred when reading “Meant to be Mine” by Hannah Orenstein (Atria Paperback). I wanted to grab Edie Meyer and say, “You dumped a wonderful man who loved you, who understood you and whom you loved because your grandmother Gloria told you that you would meet the love of your life on a particular date and that date will happen in a few months. I don’t care how many times she’s been right about the date that someone in your family has meet their true love: why turn away someone wonderful for an uncertain future?” 

But maybe her grandmother is right: on the date predicted, Edie travels to Maine to watch her sister’s boyfriend propose to her. Edie also meets the gorgeous Theo on the plane and, with a few clever twists, they end up dating. Theo seems to be everything that Edie is looking for, but sometimes things seem off. Not that Theo isn’t a great person, but they don’t always fit or seem to want the same things. Is it possible that her destined match is the wrong one?

What’s not a problem is Edie’s relationship with her grandmother. Gloria is a great character and it was wonderful to see Edie attend a regular mah-jongg date with Gloria, her mother and her sister. The scenes when these relatives interact are among the best sections of “Meant to be Mine.” Plus, the initial premise – learning the date that one will meet the love of one’s life – was clever. An additional pleasure was my correctly guessing the ending.