Imagine a wildly successful shadchan who matches the unmatchable. She’s an anonymous Internet matchmaker who operates under the moniker Matchmaven.
Now imagine that this mysterious Matchmaven is actually an 11th-grade student struggling to balance this double identity of student-by-day and matchmaker-by-night.
That’s the premise of a new Orthodox Jewish comedy that is getting rave reviews from review publications, bloggers, and book-lovers. The novel, Playing with Matches, by Suri Rosen, takes place within Toronto’s frum community. It’s by turns hilarious and heartbreaking as Raina tries to find happiness for others and redemption for herself.
Raina’s troubles begin when she is sent to live with her strict aunt in Toronto where she feels like she’s persona non grata. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. Raina is befriended by a woman, Tamara, on a city bus. Out of desperation she reluctantly agrees to set Tamara up on date. Suddenly, Raina’s “Matchmaven” e‑mail account is inundated with requests for shidduchim. Raina is plunged into the world of matchmaking as singles beg her to help them find their mates.
One of them is her sister Leah.
Playing with Matches is published by a Canadian publisher, ECW Press, and is written for a general readership. The reviews—from non-Jewish and Jewish readers alike—are glowing.
“The story was light and fluffy, mixed with bittersweet love lost and love found,” said one reviewer. “Peppered through the book were hilarious scenes that had me rolling with laughter.”
Many readers are enjoying the glimpse the book offers into the Orthodox Jewish community. “Before reading Playing with Matches, I didn’t know anything about Jewish culture and I had no idea matchmaking is even a thing,” said one reviewer. “But it is, and it’s a delightful thing! The matchmakers don’t just match people up and then step out of the way. Raina is called upon, time and time again. She’s asked to intervene in bad dates, to find a new match when the initial ones don’t work out, and to provide emotional support every step along the way.”
Other readers are commenting about a coming-of-age story where the protagonist’s growth is not related to romance. “I have to say the biggest (and best) thing that I didn’t see coming was the fact that Suri Rosen didn’t focus on giving Raina a love interest,” one blogger wrote. “This made Playing with Matches refreshing and unique compared to all the young-adult books that do focus on love interests. Suri Rosen proved that there is more to a character than falling in love, and that’s an important message!”
Suri Rosen is a freelance newspaper and magazine writer based in Toronto. She has worked as a professional artist, art teacher, filmmaker, journalist, and mini-documentary producer for Rogers Television. For more information, visit www.surirosen.com. v