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The Matzo Ball Heiress (Red Dress Ink) Paperback – April 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Heather Greenblotz is the most down-to-earth heiress you're ever likely to meet. She's got a chilly, self-centered and travel-obsessed mother and a warm, self-centered and gay father; her cousin Jake, a real trooper, runs the family business, Greenblotz Matzo; her cousins Marcy and Rebecca are covetous and litigious. Shapiro, author of ALA Notable Book The Unexpected Salami, deftly manages to keep her heroine above the fray: while Heather may be angry at her relatives, she is never bitter. But what's an heiress-albeit a very nice and hardworking one-to do when she discovers that the family business is in financial trouble and only she can save the day? Why, she throws together a last-minute Passover seder to be broadcast by the Food Channel. The only problem is that the cantankerous Greenblotz clan doesn't celebrate Passover. In a highly improbable sequence of events, Heather and her kosher heartthrob, cameraman Jared Silver, attempt to pull off the seder of the year, attended by, among others, a stoned intern, Heather's father's gay lover, the official spokesman for the Egyptian consulate and a young woman with the unfortunate surname of Hitler. There is plenty of humor in this novel, and while some of it flirts with slapstick, Shapiro rescues her characters' dignity, sometimes hauling them out of the abyss at the last moment. Heather's likable personality and work as an award-winning documentarian also help her to "keep it real," even as she trips along toward the inevitable happy ending of this amusing, irreverent novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Heather Greenblotz's mother is distant and preoccupied with her own life, and her father is off in Amsterdam with his lover. Heather's shares in the family business, Greenblotz Matzo, have allowed her to pursue her dream of being a documentary filmmaker. She still helps out with some of the PR for the company, and when the Food Channel wants to do a segment on it, Heather's cousin Jake asks her to give them the tour. She's greeted by two delicious men when she arrives at the factory: sexy interviewer Steve and thoughtful, handsome cameraman Jared. She's attracted to both men, but it's Steve who makes the first move, though Heather quickly learns there's a business motive behind it: he wants to film a Greenblotz family Passover seder. Greenblotz Matzo needs the publicity, but Heather has no idea how to get her wayward family together for a religious event. A lighthearted and fun read from the author of The Unexpected Salami (1998). Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Ms. Shapiro created a fun and funny read which you won't want to put down. Like Levy's Rye Bread, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy The Matzo Ball Heiress.
The Heiress in the title is a typical young jewish woman trying to find her way in the world, surrounded by a family of misfits. Ultimately a story about a search for romance. Along the way we are introduced to the art of filmmaking, personal turmoil, a psychotherapist who oversteps boundries, and a strange visit to Amsterdam. All of this is peppered with a wonderful array of characters (some of which have national affiliations or family names that add to the comical drama of the story!)
I read this as a book club selection and was pleasantly surprised.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro's second novel, THE MATZO BALL HEIRESS, introduces Heather as she emotionally prepares for another disappointing Passover. 31-year-old Heather is a successful documentary filmmaker with two Emmy Awards to her credit, and her involvement in the family business is minimal. Few people even know she's a wealthy heiress to the Greenblotz family business, begun by her grandfather Izzy many years ago. Every spring, however, she helps out her cousin Jake (figurehead and CEO of the business) during the busy Passover season. Otherwise, she is seemingly disconnected from the world of traditional Judaism and kosher food. One day, while filling in for Jake at the matzo factory, she is interviewed by the Food Network and her Passover plans begin to radically change.
After the success of the interview with the dashing Steve Meyers, the Food Network wants to do a live broadcast of the Greenblotz family Seder. Jake Greenblotz thinks it's an excellent idea and that it will boost slumping sales. Heather, on the other hand, has her doubts. The family, she reminds Jake, has never gathered together for the ritual meal; her mother usually goes snorkeling, her other cousins can't stand Heather or Jake, Jake's brother lives like a playboy in Florida, and her father Sol, the only one who could lead the seder and read Hebrew, was last heard from several years ago when he moved (with no forwarding address) to Amsterdam.
At the urging of her over-the-top therapist, Heather agrees to the broadcast and begins to assemble relatives; when that fails, she asks others to act as family members for the broadcast (including Jake's Irish girlfriend Siobhan, who becomes Shoshana for the day). But will the world be convinced by the staged Greenblotz Seder?
Complicating the already sticky situation is Heather's entanglement with on-air personality Steve Meyers and her growing fondness for kosher cameraman Jared Silver.
With a little patience and faith, Heather survives a near disastrous Seder and emerges with a new love in her life and a newfound respect for her family and friends.
THE MATZO BALL HEIRESS is funny and sassy, and because it focuses on a Jewish family's traditions (or lack thereof) and issues, it is also unique. Heather Greenblotz is more than a typical Manhattan socialite; she has depth and intelligence. Thus, Shapiro's novel moves beyond the simple classification of Chick Lit, although it retains the romance, sex and attitude. The writing here is light and natural, a pleasure to read. And the humor is well balanced with some of the weightier issues, such as religious observance, identity and family dynamics. While Shapiro doesn't offer many meaty insights into these issues, she doesn't shy away from them either.
THE MATZO BALL HEIRESS is a fun and quickly read novel coming out just as Jewish families across the world prepare to sit down together to celebrate Passover. Chances are that some readers will find their own families reflected in these pages. Others will be treated to a good story.
--- Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman