“The Matchmaker’s Gift” by Lynda Cohen Loigman is an engaging love story that isn’t a romance. It isn’t a thriller, it’s not an angsty romance with ups and downs in every chapter, and it’s certainly not a mystery with twists and turns jumping out to stymie readers. Yet I found myself so engaged with the characters, so charmed by the story, and so interested in which direction the plot would go that I read the book during every spare moment. I finished it in 24 hours, and was sorry. I didn’t want the story to end.
The story is about two matchmakers. Sara’s matchmaking gift shows itself when she is ten, in 1910. She finds a match for her sister on the ship taking them to America. Sara’s gift presents itself in a magical manner — she sees a gold thread or other image to let her know about the couple destined to have a loving relationship. Her granddaughter Abby, on the other hand, grew up bitter and angry about her father’s cruel treatment of her mother, whom he divorced and cheated in the settlement. She decided to make sure more women weren’t taken advantage of during the dissolution of marriage and became a divorce lawyer.
We learn about Sara’s story as it alternates with Abby’s story. The grandmother and the granddaughter. And while we do learn all of Sara’s story, from her first match to her last, unfinished one, I wanted to know how Abby’s story ends, too. Loigman cleverly alternates the timelines of the two women so that eventually, we see Abby as she reads about Sara’s matchmaking from Sara’s meticulous notes in her journals, and then we read about those matches as they occurred.
Both Sara and Abby are admirable women. Sara stood up to the male matchmakers who were jealous of her abilities; they took the unusual step of suing her in Jewish rabbinical court to try to stop her from her matching. Instead of folding under the pressure of those much older male figures, Sara defended herself bravely. We see Abby as she works for a woman whose goal is to become the most respected and sought-after divorce attorney in NYC. But as Abby reads her grandmother’s journals, and begins to realize that she might have inherited her grandmother’s ability to “see” the divine connections that link people, her priorities shift. And even though her newfound belief in the sanctity of true love might threaten her job, we see how Abby and Sara share the same iron will and moral belief.
So this love story is a very unusual one. It’s not about Sara’s romance, or even Abby’s, although they do experience some romance. It’s about the romance of many others and how, at times, we might be blind to what true love is if we are blinded by other emotions. You will, with few exceptions, like the people you find in these pages, and you will root for them to find their “happily ever after.” And after you’ve turned the last page, perhaps you’ll sigh as I did, experiencing the joy of a wonderful book that’s left you with nothing but warm emotions.
Please note: This review is based on the finished copy provided by St. Martin’s Press, the publisher, for review purposes.