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Seven Blessings: A Novel Hardcover – August 13, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two Orthodox Jewish matchmakers strive busily to marry off their neighbors in this bustling debut novel set in modern-day Jerusalem. Tsippi, who works the counter of her husband's grocery store, is always on the lookout for promising single shoppers, even as her own marriage begins to show signs of wear. Judy, a glamorous mother of six, fits in her matchmaking around her studies at a yeshiva for women, where she is taking Torah classes, looking for deeper meaning in life. Both take a stab at setting up 39-year-old Beth, a staunchly independent Orthodox woman from the U.S. who has gone on more first dates than she can count. Now her possibilities are beginning to dwindle, and to make matters worse, she is troubled by a crisis of faith. When Tsippi sends her on a date with Akiva, a house painter and student of the Torah, Beth is hopeful, but Akiva is afflicted by a disconcerting twitch. A date with arrogant Binyamin, one of Judy's clients, is even more discouraging. Binyamin is a handsome American artist, a newcomer to observant Judaism, but none of the women he dates are good enough for him: as he puts it, "A beauty, dammit, that's what he wanted. Attractive wouldn't do." King tracks the dating fates of Beth, Akiva and Binyamin, but pays equal attention to their spiritual searching. Her attention to minor variations in levels of orthodoxy makes the book a sociological study of sorts ("he went to a very religious black-hat hareidi yeshiva, yet from the look of him he seemed two steps removed from that world"), but her richly detailed descriptions of Jerusalem (the reader can almost smell the falafel frying) and her sympathetic characters make this a fully realized novel.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"While the machinations of matchmakers have long been a staple of fiction, King's evdebut novel puts a fresh spin on the subject....King's portrayal of a religious community is as warm and engaging as any in contemporary literature. Her characters jump off the page and into the hearts of her audience...charming, spiritual tale."--Library Journal

"A gentle evocation of love and faith in Jerusalem's Orthodox community....King then seems, like a Jewish Jane Austen....Much of the story's strength rises from King's generous description of Jerusalem....A tender enlightening debut that, urban setting aside, reads like a comedy of provincial manners."--Kirkus

"Two Orthodox Jewish matchmakers strive busily to marry off their neighbors in this bustling debut novel set in modern-day Jerusalem...her richly detailed descriptions of Jerusalem (the reader can almost smell the falafel frying) and her sympathetic characters make this a fully realized novel."--Publishers Weekly


"While...matchmakers have long been a staple of fiction, King's debut novel puts a fresh spin on the subject...." (Library Journal)

"A gentle evocation of love and faith in Jerusalem's Orthodox community....King then seems, like a Jewish Jane Austen...." (Kirkus)

"...her richly detailed descriptions of Jerusalem...and her sympathetic characters make this a fully realized novel." (Publishers Weekly)

"King's portrayal of a religious community is as warm and engaging as any in contemporary literature." (Library Journal)

"Her characters jump off the page and into the hearts of her audience...charming, spiritual tale." (Library Journal)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312309155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312309152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
According to the Talmud, Rev Yehuda taught that 40 days before a male child is conceived, a voice from heaven announces whose daughter he is going to marry, literally a match made in heaven! In Yiddish, this perfect match is called "bashert," a word meaning fate, destiny - or one's soul mate. Ruchama King has written a gem of a novel about a woman and two men in search of their "besherts." These three lonely people are Americans, all observant Jews, who have moved to Jerusalem to make new lives for themselves. After years of unsuccessfully searching for the "right one," they decide to seek help from two local matchmakers.

Beth, approaching forty, is attractive, extremely independent and very conscious that she is one of the few women her age who does not wear a head covering - a sign of marriage. She has never been touched, nor kissed, by any male other than her father. And her biological clock keeps reminding her that her prospects are dwindling with every tick. Akiva is a sensitive, spiritual, appealing man, with a debilitating twitch which he sees as a blessing. And Binyamin, a handsome, charming, narcissistic artist, gets blacklisted by all Jerusalem's matchmakers because he seeks perfection in his mate. All three long for an end to their loneliness.

The matchmakers and their husbands don't exactly live in a Garden of Eden. Tsippe, is a holocaust survivor married to a man whose life she saved in the concentration camps. She yearns for passion and romance from her husband, whose head is always in a book. Judy, a beautiful former rebbetzin, feels that something important has disappeared from her marriage. Her husband, who used to be a Torah scholar, is now an exterminator and Judy misses aspects of her old life.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Avrech on December 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Something is happening to Jewish literature. Something very good. The old, tired voices are, at last, being replaced by a new generation of authentic Jewish writers. In the past, Jewish American novelists could be counted on for their cooly polished prose, yet their world view was deeply nihilistic and almost always anti-religious--often bordering on a kind of Wahabi secularism. The work of writers such as Roth, Bellow, Mailer, is infused with a hatred of traditional Judaism. Roth's childish fixation on the unattainable shicksah registers to contemporary Jewish youth like prehistoric drawings. Mailer's sexual fixations are merely crude and ugly. Bellow is simply professorial. Yawn. Naturally, the cultural elite elevated these mediocrities to heroic levels. A few great writers refused to go along with this cultural self-loathing: Chaim Grade, Cynthia Ozick, and for their efforts they were often marginalized.

Ruchama King is one of a new generation of Jewish American writers who are not embarrassed by traditional Judaism. Her voice is literary without resorting to fashionable cynisim. Nor does she define her Judaism as based on victimhood. No, her characters are unabashedly proud of being Jewish. And Ms. King's love for them makes this first novel a joy to read from beginning to end.

"Seven Blessings" is an amazing novel. In prose as sharp as a diamond Ms. King dissects the lives of observant Jews in Jerusalem and their heart-breaking search for love. Ms. King's characters do not go to bars or clubs to hook up; these men and woman, modern in every way, choose to follow the age-old tradition of using a matchmaker to help move the process of along.

The mark of great storytelling is simple: Do you care about the fate of the characters?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nancy R. Katz VINE VOICE on March 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In the show and movie, Fiddler on the Roof, one of the songs includes the words, "A blessing on your head, mazel tov, mazel tov! To see your daughter wed, mazel tov! mazel tov!" I feel safe in saying that parents all over the world feel blessed when their children marry and take their place in society as a happy couple. But what of the women and men who reach middle age and haven't found their soul mates? And what if this society not only insists on marriage but that the couple be fruitful and multiply? Enter the world of Seven Blessings by Ruchama King which is set in Israel among Orthodox Jews. Readers of this book will quickly be entranced as I was by the unmarried men and women in this book along with the time honored profession of matchmaking.
Among the matchmakers we meet are Tsippi, a mother and grandmother who has survived the concentration camps and who seeks greater contact with her studious husband. Then there is Judith, an American born woman who is married to a Rabbi and who would like to able to study Talmud like her husband. The two women's efforts at this time are solely concentrated on Beth who at 39 has moved from America to Israel when her father died. Alone in Israel, Beth is painfully aware that time is running out and soon even the matchmakers won't be there to help her. When she is introduced to Akiva, she wonders if this will be her last chance.
This was a thought provoking book which I highly recommend. King's descriptions of the prospect of being forever single in a married world are illuminating. And if we are captivated by Beth's plight, we also feel for her matchmakers. Gone is the frivolity of the matchmakers portrayed in movies such as Fiddler on the Roof and other films or books.
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