Happy April! Happy Passover (still!) or Easter to all who are celebrating. I’ve been busy with holiday prep and work, and trying to find time to do some writing and get out into nature. April means that I’ve been putting the newsletter out for a year now! Many thanks for your support, and please forward or share this with anyone who’d be interested in receiving book recommendations, info on literary events, recipes and more!
Brief writing update: I’ve been working on a few creative nonfiction pieces in the last month, including one that’s been tentatively accepted (hooray!) though we’ve still been going back and forth on some edits. The best part of my writing month was taking a class with Kathy Fish, goddess of flash fiction. Five intensive days of writing exercises and craft lessons! I was in awe of my fellow students, all of whom seemed to bang out polished, submission-worthy pieces within hours. I started five new pieces, two nonfiction and three fiction, and I’m continuing to work on some of them.
Quick request/friendly reminder: If you’ve read (and enjoyed) The Book of Jeremiah, please help me out by writing a brief review on Amazon or wherever you purchase books online. It can be as simple as one or two lines. Loads of people have said they’d do this, and then they forget, so consider this a friendly reminder. :-) If you can’t remember if you’ve written a review or not, simply click on the link here and you should be able to see if you’ve done this already. A million thank yous!
I’ve read some great books this month, though I’m still one behind in my self-imposed Goodreads challenge for 2021.
Father Guards the Sheep by Sari Rosenblatt: This is a terrific story collection that’s full of wit and grace, characters who are “humane, sympathetic and lovably askew” as Wally Lamb put it. There are daughters finding their way in the world under the shadow of abrasive but familiar Jewish fathers, a nursing mother grappling with her husband’s renewed friendship with a college friend, young women at dead-end jobs, an adult daughter trying to hire an aide for her difficult father. In the words of one reviewer: “Each story is complete in itself, but their connection is almost novelistic in its revelation of one family in particular, and of an entire community, as well. I haven’t come across a voice this original in a very long time…” Many of the stories take place in Connecticut, so that was an extra bonus for me. I felt like I knew these characters intimately, and thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in their worlds.
The Face Tells the Secret by Jane Bernstein: The Face Tells the Secret is a beautiful, “big” novel that takes us from Pittsburgh to Tel Aviv and the Galilee. By “big” I mean this story asks important questions, and will get you thinking about your responsibilities towards others. As Jane told us at the March Literary Modiin event, Roxanne, the main character, is someone who has been raised “without context.” Meaning, Roxanne’s distant (and seemingly unloving) parents have kept everything about her earliest years hidden from her, including the knowledge that she has a profoundly disabled twin sister. Despite multiple challenges and wounded people in her life, Roxanne’s journey is one of openness and love. This was one of those books that kept me rapt from start to finish; a family saga that’s also a page-turner. I loved this book and think it would be a great choice for book clubs.
The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr: This gorgeous story collection came out ten years ago (before All the Light We Cannot See) but I’ve just read it now. Both nature, and human nature, Doerr’s subjects. The stories range across the globe - from Oregon to Liberia to Maine and Lapland - and the characters and stories are full of grief and hope and mending hearts. Each story is rich enough to be a novel. As The New York Times Book Review put it: “Doerr’s prose dazzles, his sinewy sentences blending the naturalists’ unswerving gaze with the poet’s gift for metaphor.”
Story of the Month: Dawn in Pennsylvania
Dawn in Pennsylvania (Merion West) by Becky Tuch. This story came to my inbox via Grub Street’s weekly “Spreading the Love” email. It’s a beautiful story about a father and a daughter, an Edward Hopper painting and an America that no longer exists.
I’ve got a few of my own book events coming up this month (Mah Tovu in West Rodgers Park, IL; Beth Jacob Synagogue and the Vermont Hadassah chapter in Montpelier, VT; the Jewish Historical Society of Fairfield County)! Plus a new Literary Modiin event! My calendar is wide open after April, so if you’re in a book club or know someone who is, I’d love to Zoom in to discuss The Book of Jeremiah.
Literary Modiin’s April Author Event will be held on Sunday, April 25 at 20:00 Israel / 1:00 pm Eastern / 12:00 pm Central etc. Join me to hear from three Israel-based authors: Haviva Ner-David, whose debut, Hope Valley, has just come out; Rachel Neve-Midbar, whose poetry collection Salaam of Birds, came out last year; and Edna Shemesh, author of Amstel (among other books). (Last month’s newsletter featured a new story of Edna’s, which is how I “met” her.) Register here to get the Zoom link.
Missed any of our Literary Modiin events? Watch all of them here!
Prompt of the Month: Flower Names
I love taking pictures of flowers when I’m out biking, hiking, walking and running, and then I try to identify them (or ask my more knowledgeable friends for help). Some of the names are wild, and I thought it would be fun to use them as a writing exercise: Judean’s Viper-bugloss, broomrape, red cudweed (aka Dam Hamaccabim), and soft-hairy rock rose. Write about flowers or anywhere that the words take you, and let me know how it goes. For some pictures of these, follow me on Instagram!
Recipe of the Month: Ottolenghi All Year
Welcome to the end of the newsletter, where you’re rewarded with a yummy recipe. I’m a big fan of Yoram Ottolenghi and not all of his recipes are big patshkes. I love this simple roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey. I make it year-round but I also made it for my seder, and it got gobbled up quickly.
Chicken divided into quarters or eights
2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
generous pinch of saffron threads
juice of 1 lemon
4 TBSP cold water
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (100 g) unskinned hazelnuts
3 1/2 TBSP honey
Marinate the chicken with olive oil, lemon juice, spices, and water for at least an hour (or overnight in the fridge). Toast the hazelnuts at 375 F / 190 C for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned and then coarsely chop them. Transfer the chicken with its marinade to a baking dish, skin side up. Bake at 375 F / 190 C. The recipe calls for 35 minutes but I usually leave it in for a bit longer, ~45-50 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, combine the hazelnuts, honey and a bit a water to form a paste. Remove the chicken from the oven and spread the nut paste all over it. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the nuts are golden brown. Garnish with chopped scallions. Delish!
That’s it! Thanks for your support this past year, and see you next month with book recommendations, writing notes, recipes & more! I’ll leave you with these pictures from my trip to Masada yesterday. Hadn’t been there in over 25 years!
Top L: No cable car for us. We hiked up and down the Snake Path. Top R: amazing 2000+ year old mosaic. Bottom R: view of the Jordanian mountains reflecting in the Dead Sea on the ride home. Bottom L: broomrape or יחנוק המלחות spotted at the top of Masada.