Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Twenty-five-year-old TV producer Jared Greenfield loves his big city life — job, friends, and shopping — but even with all the fun of big city life, he feels a longing for something, or someone, more. Then, on the very first night of Hanukkah, he spots a handsome, sweaty basketball player at the Jewish Community Center.
Tall, dark, and Orthodox, the young and athletic Shai Goodhart strikes up an easy friendship with Jared, only to discover Jared has very little appreciation for his own Jewish heritage and religion. Determined to enlighten this “Bad Jew,” Shai invites him over for a family Hanukkah celebration.
Then Jared discovers Shai’s deepest secret and the biggest threat to his future. Over the eight days of Hanukkah, deep emotions pull them closer and closer together. Can they ever reach across the divide of their shared culture and fall in love.
Hanukkah Gifts is the first story that I’ve read by Jacob Cheyenne and it has many wonderful aspects to it. I love to read stories that vary from the many Christmas tales I usually read at this time of the year and novels or short stories that center around the Jewish holidays standout. There are many wonderful ones already this year. With Hanukkah Gifts, Jacob Cheyenne has one that’s a bit of a mixed bag, some good elements, and some ones I wish had been left out.
Jared is young, casual about his religion, not keeping with its tradition but loosely connected within the network of people within the community. That’s how he happens to notice the hot man playing a game of hookup basketball at the Jewish Community Center. A conversation and exchange of information later, informs each that Shai is a devout Jew…Orthodox and that clearly Jared isn’t. Intrigued by each other, Shai offers an invitation to the first night of Hanukkah at his family’s home where he still lives in ordre for Jared to experience an Orthodox ceremony. Surprising things take off from there.
I really like the plot as well as the characters of Jared and Shai. I think the author did a wonderful job making both men seem believable (for the most part) and people you might meet coming down the street. One of the places where he missed the mark is in the “bad Jew” or “good Jew” appellations he inserts here. I actually get that people talk that way. But it perpetuates a certain stereotype and that surprised me. Also how quickly Shai breaks down within even knowing much about Jared, that seemed unrealistic. You share your most intimate secret to someone you don’t even know much about? Someone who clearly doesn’t like parts of what the Orthodox Jewish religion stands for? What a leap of faith to take for a stranger.
Shai’s character needs some more grounding, or more layers. Some of the decisions he makes here seem to be, I don’t know, just unrealistic or lacking any thought processes. Astonishing is the word I’m looking for. So is the sort of insta love that occurs here.
There are so many things I did love. When Jared and Shai are in New York, they are grounded in culture and the city. The story is alive, vibrant. After that, its hard to recapture that same energy no matter the circumstances.
There is much promise here. I look forward to more from this author. I hope that next Hanukkah finds another story from this author. I can’t wait to see what he will come up with.
Cover is charming.
Expected publication: December 24th 2016 by JMS Books LLC