Jean Meltzer’s third novel is a beautiful story about Jewish pride and life with chronic pain. It serves as a reminder to hold onto joy, no matter what hardships are thrown your way.
Avital Cohen runs a kosher bakery known for its pumpkin-spice babka. She does this while living with chronic pelvic pain, which forces her to find some additional help. When Ethan Lippmann walks in to interview for the job, she hires him — and fights her attraction towards him. Little does Avital know that Ethan is there to steal the babka recipe for his grandfather, who is the archnemesis of Avital’s own grandfather. Before long, Ethan loses sight of the mission because of his fondness for Avital.
Meltzer, who also experiences chronic illness, has written a story that feels deeply personal and meaningful. Her protagonist has every reason to be angry with life: she doesn’t know how to ease her pain, and she’s constantly exhausted. However, she masks so much of her suffering by caring for others and carrying on her family’s business. Ethan’s overwhelming support makes Avital feel less alone as she tends to the day-to-day operations of the bakery.
Kissing Kosher is unapologetically Jewish — something that readers can expect if they’ve read Meltzer’s other novels. Not only does the book take place over Jewish holidays, it includes a rabbi that works at a marijuana dispensary. Through Avital and Ethan’s experience with this rabbi, they learn how to manage her pain. And she is able to explore her sexuality in Jewish ways.
With stunning character development, Kissing Kosher is a tale of feuding families that redefines joy and how to claim it. Meltzer has crafted a romance that is suitable for a wide range of ages.
Elizabeth Slotnick works in the technology space but has a growing presence on bookstagram, where she reviews books spanning across all genres. She graduated from the University of Virginia and lives in Seattle, WA.