May 2021: Jeremiah turns two, hollyhocks & buttery babka

Dear Friends,


Today marks two years since The Book of Jeremiah came into the world. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the reception this book has received, and I am endlessly grateful to every reader, book club, reviewer, writing group buddy, and event attendee who has spent time with Jeremiah and his family. Special thanks to those who have written reviews on Amazon; I won’t lie - I’m pretty psyched to see the numbers below next to my book. I hope whatever you’re up to in life, you have many things for which to be grateful. Scroll down for book recs, a new Lit Modiin event, recipes and more!



Quick writing update: I’ve flitted around in the last month, editing an essay that’s coming out this week, working on my first-ever book review, and most exciting for me, getting back to a new Molly (& Jeremiah) story I began about a year ago.


Some nice news: The Ilanot Review’s latest issue features a new section with “micro-reviews” of books that brought the editors delight in the past year. I’m grateful to Nadia Jacobson for featuring The Book of Jeremiah as one of her picks! Check out the reviews and the full issue here.


Recommended Reads

I’m up to 25 books for the year, so I’m on track to meet my self-imposed challenge of reading 75 books this year. Here are some favorites from the past month:


The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo - This is un-put-downable debut novel centers around the Sorrenson family: parents Marilyn and David and their four daughters, Wendy, Violet, Liza and Grace. Though Marilyn and David offer a portrait of stability and passion for each other, their daughters are navigating adulthood in a state of unrest, wondering if their relationships will ever meet as high a bar as their parents’. “A wonderfully immersive read that packs more heart and heft than most first novels…A deliciously absorbing novel with—brace yourself—a tender and satisfyingly positive take on family.” Highly recommend!


The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed - This is the second story collection of Christine Sneed’s that I’ve read and it’s another winner. Her stories are immersive and rich in insight, the characters - a mother on vacation with her coddled teenage son, a woman whose celebrity husband leaves her, a college student who learns of an older sister, to name a few - are fully formed, leading “tragic, comic, quirky and/or quotidian lives,” as The New York Times Book Review puts it. “The reader tears through page after page and by the end feels not only bereft but ravenous, hungry for more.” This reader felt the same way, and highly recommends this collection. (BTW Christine Sneed has the best titles! Her earlier story collection is called Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry.)


Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry - If you’re looking for dark and funny, try this tragicomic novel, featuring two aging Irishmen sitting in a sketchy ferry terminal in Spain. They’re hardened criminals trying to locate the estranged daughter of one of the men. The language is beautiful and haunting, and as the story unfolds we learn of betrayals, violence, and romance. As one reviewer put it, Barry is “a writer of inspired prose, a funny and perceptive artist who can imbue a small story with tremendous depth. . . A sad, lyrical beauty of a novel.” I listened to the audio version, narrated by the author. A thoroughly satisfying listen (read)!


Poem of the Month: Destinations

Destinations (Plume Poetry) by Jo-Ann Mort. I read and enjoyed this poem around Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). For anyone who wishes they could travel to Israel right now (or travel back to an older Israel). Thanks to Erika Dreifus for bringing it to my attention!


Events

The last two weeks of April were jam-packed with book-related events; May will be a bit quieter. I’m super-excited to meet with the Barnard Book Club of Jerusalem when they discuss The Book of Jeremiah, their first in-person meeting since the pandemic began. The book club has been going for over 20 years, and if I lived in Jerusalem, I’d surely be a member. 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 May Author Event will be held on Sunday, May 30, at 20:00 Israel time / 1:00 pm Eastern, featuring Meryl Ain (The Takeaway Men), Menachem Kaiser (Plunder), and Karen Marron (BASS 1998). Can’t wait to hear all of these talented authors! Register here to get the Zoom link.





Missed any of our Literary Modiin events? Watch all of them here!


Prompt of the Month

Travel is on my mind lately, as I’m getting on a plane next week for the first time since Jan 2020. I’m excited and a bit nerve-wracked due to all the extra things I have to think about. Write a story / poem / essay / travelogue / hermit crab piece about someone going on a trip.


Recipe of the Month: Cinnamon Babka

I can’t quite believe that this is now the 14th newsletter I’ve sent out and I’ve yet to include my favorite dessert. Plus, the Jewish holiday of Shavuot is coming up, when it’s customary to eat dairy. Give me a buttery babka over a cheesecake any day. This recipe comes via Paula Shoyer, aka The Kosher Baker, who taught cooking during the special activities week at Camp Ramah in New England for many summers; my daughter was lucky enough to get into her cooking section two years in a row, and we’ve been making this babka religiously ever since.


Dough

1/2 c warm water

1/2 oz (14 grams) yeast

1/2 c sugar, plus 1 teaspoon, divided

5 c all-purpose flour

1 c butter

2 large eggs, plus 1 white


Filling

1 c butter

1+ c sugar

15 TBSP cinnamon (choc lovers: 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa + 1/2 c mini choc chips)


Combine the water, teaspoon of sugar, and yeast in large mixing bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the 1/2 c sugar, flour, butter, and eggs. Combine by hand or use a dough hook until all ingredients are mixed in. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise two hours.


For the filling, mix the sugar and cinnamon and add in the softened or slightly melted butter.


Preheat the oven to 185 C / 375 F Divide the dough into four. Roll each piece into rectangles (mine never come out too perfect). Spread 1/4 of the filling on the rectangle, leaving a small edge without filling. Roll tightly the long way. Repeat with the other rectangles, and when you have two rolls, twist them together and put the seam side down. Don’t worry if some of the filling escapes. Brush the top of the loaves with reserved egg yolk and a little water. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Enjoy!



Thanks again for your support, and see you next month with book recommendations, writing notes, recipes & more! I’ll leave you with a picture of the gorgeous pink hollyhocks in bloom all over Israel right now:

I took this on a recent bike ride. If you want to know more, read my friend Joanna Maissel’s recent blog on hollyhocks and follow her on FB for more nature posts.