A divorcee and her two daughters are grieving for Sara, their beloved mother and grandmother who died recently after a very long life as a matchmaker. Sara’s career began at an early age, as a ten-year old girl on a boat with her family, emigrating from Eastern Europe to America. Amidst a crowd onboard, she detected the promise of love between her sister and a stranger. Sure enough, when the boat arrived in New York, Sara pulled off her first triumph as a shadchante — the Yiddish word for a female matchmaker.

SARA’S COMING-OF-AGE STORY AS A MATCHMAKER

In her third novel, The Matchmaker’s Gift (St. Martin’s Press), Lynda Cohen Loigman returns to themes that she explores so well: mistrust, forgiveness, and the plight of young Jewish women who are constrained by traditional gender roles. Living in a small apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, often verging on poverty, Sara’s family manages with help from a kind, wealthy man who believes that his daughter will never marry. He is rewarded when Sara finds a perfect match for the young woman.

There is a problem, though. The intimidating, influential shadchanim — male matchmakers from the old country — effectively bar Sara from the trade until she is able to shake their stranglehold (and meets her own husband, a lawyer, in the process). Newly liberated and a college graduate to boot, Sara embarks finally on her true calling. Now, experiencing the joy of bringing couples together while earning a handsome living, she revels in life with her husband, daughter, and son.

SARA’S LIFE CONTRASTED WITH THE LIFE OF A DIVORCE LAWYER

Shifting between the early twentieth century and the 1990s, Loigman draws readers into the busy days and nights of Sara’s granddaughter, Abby. For some time, Abby has rationalized a missing sense of fulfillment in her job as a divorce lawyer. Does she really want to spend her life negotiating the division of assets and prenuptial agreements? It cannot be a coincidence that Sara has left to Abby her records of hundreds of matches she made over the years, each one detailed in a series of leather journals that begin in Yiddish but quickly switch to English.

Abby feels compelled to read her grandmother’s records and becomes fascinated by the stories, finding in them lessons that apply to her own life. While continuing to work crazy hours with little downtime, she soon realizes that she has inherited her grandmother’s gift for matchmaking. Surreptitiously, away from the forbidding eyes of the hotshot lawyer she works for, Abby intuitively sees alternatives to the divorce plans of their clients.

The story of Sara and Abby is one of contrasts — the old world and the new world — and yet the choices that Sara faced as a young woman echo in Abby’s anxiety about the decisions she will make in her own life. After graduating from law school, she confidently set forth on her chosen path of family law. Changing course would mean abandoning what she thought was her dream, though it would enable her to be true to herself and pursue her real passions.

LOIGMAN PLAYS MATCHMAKER BETWEEN READER AND STORY

Lynda Cohen Loigman has a gift herself: the ability to evoke places and scenes with the subtlest of details. She takes us all over town in time and space: a crowded French bakery on the Upper East Side and narrow streets lined with sweltering tenements; the audience gathering at dusk for the Shakespeare Festival in Central Park and a Tribeca party sparkling with celebrities and high fashion. Even the bland waiting room in an ophthalmologist’s 63rd Street office springs to life in just a few lines.

It is interesting to note that Loigman was struggling to write a different novel than The Matchmaker’s Gift when the pandemic descended on the United States. Her daughter returned from college, bringing along a friend whose grandmother had been an Orthodox Jewish matchmaker. Her story proved irresistible. Before long, Loigman plunged into prodigious online research that burst her own stereotypes and inspired a plot that is contemporary, yet conjures a bygone world. On top of all that, it is full of surprises.

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Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.

Her debut novel, Two-Family House, was a USA Today bestseller and a nominee for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards in Historical Fiction. Her second novel, The Wartime Sisters, was selected as a Woman’s World Book Club pick and a Best Book of 2019 by Real Simple Magazine. The Matchmaker’s Gift is her third novel.