REVIEW: B’Nai Mitzvah Mistake by Stacey Agdern
Sharing isn’t caring when it comes to your big day.
Judith Nachman loves working as a project manager at the Mitzvah Alliance charity, and after five years, it’s finally her turn to have the bat mitzvah of her dreams. Judith is enjoying every single moment of the process—until she learns she has to share her day with the annoying hockey player who derailed her sister’s career.
Retired hockey player Ash Mendel is determined to start an organization to support Jewish athletes, and the first step is to have his bar mitzvah. He’s not sure what he wants his day to look like, but he knows he definitely wants forgiveness from Judith, the woman he’s sharing the date with.
But Judith’s nephew needs to interview an athlete, and Ash needs professional advice for his foundation, so they exchange favors. Except as they get to know each other and their worlds start to mingle, Ash and Judith will have to decide whether sharing their lives as well as their B’Nai Mitzvah is the best decision they could make, or the biggest mistake of their lives.
Dear Ms. Agdern,
When looking for Jewish rep in books, I’ve come to realize that your books should be up at the top of the list. And this one is about everyday Jewish life outside of Hanukkah! The blurb caught my attention but as I was curious about adult Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Janine sent me this link.
Well the book is not just about Judith’s and Asher’s Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Asher, a retired pro ice hockey player wants to start a Jewish organization to support (first) specifically hockey players but stretch to include all Jewish athletes from youth to professionals. Judith’s cousin’s mayoral campaign brings the family together to man the phone lines and drum up support, and then there’s Judith and Asher’s relationship – past and present, working and romance.
Asher was too busy on the road and training to have his Bar Mitzvah at the usual age whereas it’s mentioned there was some “change in the rules” at Judith’s temple after she was older and also past the usual age to have her Bat Mitzvah. Now they’re both going back and doing this for themselves to fill a lack in their lives. On the first meeting at the temple with the Rabbi, Judith realizes this is going to be harder than she thought as her family’s mortal enemy is in her class. Then worse luck strikes as the Rabbi has assigned them the same date for their ceremonies. Switching isn’t encouraged and Rabbi Sol flatly tells them if they choose to not use the day assigned, they’ll probably have to wait another year as seventh graders take precedence in choice of dates and the adults get what’s left.
Judith feels she has a legitimate gripe due to how Asher treated Judith’s sister who was his agent five years ago. So yes they are going to be enemies to lovers where the cause isn’t something silly. Throughout the book Judith raises this issue and waves it like a flag. The Rabbi has asked them to talk and get past having their ceremonies on the same date. Judith’s nephew, who needs to talk to an athlete for a school project and really wants that athlete to be Jewish to prove to the teacher that such a unicorn exists, asks her for help. With her cousin’s advice ringing in her ears to do Asher a favor in return for speaking with Shimon, Judith, a projects manager, finds herself offering to help Asher set up his organization. Much time together ensues and soon they’re kissing while still not having discussed the issue that made them enemies.
Yay that Ash talks to his best friend (a Rabbi) and a hometown friend about forgiveness and what happened to cause Judith to dislike him. Also yay that Judith talks to her cousins about the same things. BUT – they don’t talk to each other about it nor does Judith talk to her sister who was the major character in the issue. Judith’s cousins warn her numerous times that this is going to blow up in her face when sister Leah finds out that Judith is associating with Asher beyond the fact that (due to circumstances [truly] beyond their control) their Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies will be together. Judith winces, acknowledges to them and herself that she knows this and then continues to say nothing before sticking her head back in the sand. This was so, so frustrating. It also dragged out for almost the entire book.
The romantic relationship crawled along at a snail’s pace before a final act conflict blew up out of almost nowhere with Judith storming off and Asher sitting like a lump on a log rather than just explaining to Judith about the issue that made her flip her lid and revert to her initial feelings about him. At this point, the great Jewish rep, fabulous food, and supportive secondary characters were all that kept me working on finishing this. I will keep looking for the Great Jewish Romance novel but sadly, this isn’t it. C