Review: A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A Small Miracle Happened cover DonneA job opportunity just brought Daniel Sobel to a small Midwestern town, a move he is now regretting. The location and population of his new place has quickly made Dan feel like the only Jewish gay man in a small Midwestern town, especially with the approach of Hanukkah. Dan is feeling isolated and lonely, removed from his large Jewish family and his culture. The only welcoming sight is his new neighbor’s rainbow flag hung in the window of the condo next door, the only color in a sea of blandness.  On the first night of Hanukkah, Dan is missing the items he needs to celebrate Hanukkah, things that cannot be purchased in this small town. But with a ring of a doorbell and a misplaced package everything changes.

Christian Parsons, neighbor and owner of the rainbow flag, is standing at his door holding a package from Dan’s grandmother. Inside is a menorah, candles— a dreidel, some chocolate coins, and a tin of cookies shaped like a Star of David. Delighted and overcome with the love and warmth of family,   Dan invites Christian in and is soon explaining the meaning of the contents of the box and Hanukkah. Chris is unfamiliar with the Jewish religion and its holidays but if it means he can spend time with Dan, he happily accepts.  Soon the men are spending each night together, lighting a candle and discovering more about each other.  Flirting turns to fun and games and then something deeper.  What will happen when the eight days of Hanukkah are over?

A Small Miracle Happened by Mari Donne is a lovely, warmhearted romance set against the backdrop of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.  Two young men, one Christian (literally) and one Jewish, have recently moved into neighboring condos.  Dan and Chris are people out of place in this homogeneous Midwestern town, one by religion and both by their sexuality.  The author employs the much used plot device of a “misdirected package” to bring Dan and Chris together then turns that happening into a story richly textured with the story of Hanukkah and Dan’s warm and loving Jewish family.

I loved the manner in which Mari Donne relays the facts behind Hanukkah and the elements associated with the holiday, from the menorah (in all its aspects) to the making of the latkes.  Its all gently incorporated into the story with an appreciation and love for Jewish ritual and Judaism.  That’s not to say its not without its humor, because there is plenty of that to be found within A Small Miracle Happened as well.  The meaning behind the letters found on the side of a top called a dreidel are revealed during a very sexy game of “Strip dreidel.” And the nightly dinners, researched and cooked by Chris, are used to define and explore kashrut law, keeping kosher as it were.

As Dan teaches Chris, the reader unfamiliar with Hanukkah and Judaism learns as well.  It’s a wonderful technique, lovingly employed here by Donne.  It enriches the story while adding depth to the characters.  I loved both Dan and Chris, neither of which is the typical gorgeous gay single guy.  Dan is overexcitable, family oriented and comfortable in his homosexuality.  Chris is none of those things.  Chris’ family is not eager to accept his gayness and is just as happy for him not to appear at the Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations at home.  Chris is tall, awkward, and shy.  Yet Donne makes their relationship and attraction believable and endearing.

A Small Miracle Happened is a short story at 79 pages but the author makes the most of this length to deliver a story that feels much larger in heart and scope.  It has been divided into eight chapter, one for each night of Hanukkah.  And then the author goes one step further and gives the reader a delightful epilogue that made the story even better.  I try my best to avoid the avalanche of overly saccharine stories that appear at this time of the year and I know I am not alone in that.  But A Small Miracle Happened is that marvelous seasonal read that sidesteps most of the holiday story pitfalls while retaining the charm and joy of the season.  I loved A Small Miracle Happened and think you will too.  Make it part of your holiday reading list.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by April Martinez is simple and effective.  I thought it was perfect for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 79 pages
Published November 26th 2013 by Loose Id
original title: A Small Miracle Happened
ISBN13 9781623006372
edition language English

Review of A Great Miracle Happened by Kim Fielding

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

A Great Miracle HappenedJude Bloch is sitting at his usual table at the  coffee shop in Chicago, far away from his family in LA.  He has done his shopping for Hannukah, mailed his presents and is now free to work on his dissertation but is having little progress.  Until the door opens up and the wind blows in handsome chef Mac Appel to share his table in the crowded shop.  A casual conversation slides into a one-night stand that turns into a series of meetings each man starts to anticipate and treasure.  At the end of eight days, a miraculous change has occurred in Jude’s holiday outlook and love has found it’s way into his heart.

I am still thinking about this story days later, amazed at how the story affected me by the end of Jude and Mac’s tale.  When Kim Fielding’s story opens upon a grouchy Jude sitting by his lonesome at a table, I was not prepared for what a charming gem of a story this turned out to be.  I loved Jude Bloch, and it’s from his POV that the story is told, so we get a very clear vision or so we think of Jude and his feelings of the holidays and relationships.  Mac Appel is so full of life and joy that he pulls the reader in at the same time he is having the same effect on Jude.  He quickly endeared himself to me as well.

But Fielding is such a gifted writer that she crafts a story that slowly peals back the layers Jude has built around himself by allowing  Mac to do the skillful filleting of Jude’s barriers, the perfect occupation for a chef.    And little by little, we start to see Jude as Mac does, a person who needs people but has been so disappointed by them, especially his family.  As Mac surreptitiously starts courting Jude, we see the lonely doctoral student start to reconnect with all around him.  By the time the story has come to its conclusion, it is humming with joy and the promise of a wonderful future for them both.

I can’t recommend this story enough.  Heartwarming, gentle, a true gem of this season and every  year after.