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Kissing Kosher


Kissing Kosher

KISSING KOSHER is a Romeo and Juliet-type romance, but in Jean Meltzer's seasoned hands, it's much more. Meltzer is passionate about educating as many readers as she can about chronic illness and pain. It seems to be a strange match for a romance, but we see how important it is for someone with chronic pain to find an understanding partner. In this novel, it feels as if Meltzer has shared more than usual about her inner feelings regarding the daily grind of living with chronic pain and its effect on one’s career and personal relationships.

Is the protagonist, Avital Cohen, based on Meltzer? And is the author channeling her own thoughts and feelings (from some point in her life) through Avital? When Avi, as she is called, meets Ethan Lippmann, she's immediately attracted to him. He's everything she's wanted in a partner, even including the right amount of religious practice (observant but not rigid). But Ethan is hiding a secret --- actually more than one --- and we know that when all is revealed, there will be drama.

"KISSING KOSHER is a Romeo and Juliet-type romance, but in Jean Meltzer's seasoned hands, it's much more.... [T]he lovely, touching part of this story is the bond that Avi and Ethan build."

In spite of an abusive childhood spent with an uncaring grandfather after the death of his parents, Ethan is kind and thoughtful. His grandfather hates Avi's grandfather with a passion. Decades ago, they started a Jewish bakery together but had a horrible falling-out. Now they are old and bitter, and they despise each other. Ethan is ordered by his grandfather to infiltrate the Cohen bakery to find the recipe for the pumpkin-spice babka, their bestseller.

As in all of Meltzer's books, we learn much about chronic pain and the devastation it wreaks on the lives of those who must endure it. Stress can make the pain worse, so those who work full-time jobs where there might be a lot of pressure can really suffer. And the sad fact is that most people don't truly understand chronic pain and how destructive it can be for those who experience it. Some might not be able to live with the pain; too often, as Meltzer points out, doctors won't prescribe enough medication to help. We've become so worried about creating an addiction to pain medication that those who really need the relief are unable to receive it and must find other ways to cope.

In KISSING KOSHER, medical cannabis is featured as one way to deal with chronic pain. Meltzer also showcases the many different needs of individuals in terms of dietary restrictions, including those who cannot tolerate gluten or have nut allergies.

But the lovely, touching part of this story is the bond that Avi and Ethan build. They learn from the rabbi who dispenses medical marijuana (from his dispensary called "Holy Roller") that although Avi might not be able to enjoy traditional sex, more important is intimacy, trust and the sharing of feelings. There's also an exploration of how trauma, both physical and emotional, can lead to serious psychological problems that must be dealt with. On many levels, Avi and Ethan can relate because each has experienced significant trauma.

I asked Meltzer about the personal nature of her book. She said, "KISSING KOSHER is most definitely inspired by my own story. I developed IC (interstitial cystitis) in 2020 and was not able to be intimate with my husband. Avital and Ethan's story is very much our story, including finding a rabbi who owns a medical cannabis dispensary! But also, finding their way to safe and pleasurable sex, after this life-changing diagnosis and experience with chronic pelvic pain. Ethan's goodness is also very much based around my husband. We all deserve to be valued, appreciated and adored, no matter what. But more than that, society has a tendency to undervalue disabled people. It's important to remember that Avital saves Ethan --- helps Ethan through his emotional pain and struggles --- just as much as he helps her through her physical pain."

Of course there is a happy ending. Meltzer (and her fans) wouldn't have it any other way. But the joy is making the journey with Avi and Ethan as they find the road that they must travel to get to their happy ever after. And we all are the better for having followed them.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on September 9, 2023

Kissing Kosher
by Jean Meltzer

  • Publication Date: August 29, 2023
  • Genres: Comedy, Fiction, Humor, Romance
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Mira
  • ISBN-10: 0778334406
  • ISBN-13: 9780778334408