Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern

I purchased Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern a few months ago in preparation for a Hanukkah celebration that I knew would look so different from years past.  I was so excited to have a holiday novel that honored Hanukkah that I saved it to read during the eight nights of the holiday.  I’m so pleased to report that it was a delightful read!

Sarah Goldman is running the annual Hollowville Hanukkah Festival.  While this festival has been the centerpiece of the holiday season in Hollowville, this year, the future of the festival is under attack.  Since the Festival needs to turn a more substantial profit, new ideas are being bandied about including (on one side) creating an aggressive marketing campaign or (on the other side) being more generic “holiday” (read: Christmas) festival. The latter is being pushed by the newest Town Council Trustee who seems set on taking the Hanukkah out of the Festival.  In order to ensure that the Hanukkah Festival stays a Hanukkah Festival, Sarah creates and enacts a social media campaign and also seeks out an artist to create an amazing menorah that will serve as a focal point and an enduring symbol of the Festival. 

Enter Isaac, grandson of one of the town’s prominent matriarchs, and a metal artist.  He’s reluctant at first to create the menorah, thinking will commercialize his beloved holiday but through his budding relationship with Sarah, he learns an important lesson about celebrating history and community.  Will it be enough to save the Festival?  Read the book to find out!

A few housekeeping items: if you are expecting a story about the religious parts of Hanukkah or a super steamy romance novel, well, you’re probably going to be disappointed.  But, if you have an open mind about how American Jews celebrate Hanukkah, then you will enjoy it as much as I did.  And there are just so many things to love about this book!  

In my review of In A Holidaze, I lamented that I don’t usually read Christmas books because I’d rather celebrate my own holidays and heritage.  And at first I had some trepidation about this book since it sounded like the book depicted Hanukkah as a Jewish Christmas.  I am more into celebrating Hanukkah as the minor Jewish holiday that it is.  

But, in fact, while the book doesn’t directly address what the Jewish holiday is all about, it does demonstrate – in a spectacular manner – how it feels to be a non-Christian during this time of year.  In fact, I would argue that this book really dives into what it feels like to be Jewish during Christmastime.  Feeling like the world expects you to embrace Christmas and that other holidays aren’t worth time or attention (which is Trustee Webster’s entire opinion) is exactly what it feels like for me during this time of year.  

I felt seen after reading this book.

I long for a place like Hollowville that celebrates my holiday!!  Does such a place exist?  And, if so, where can I find it?  This is probably one of the reasons I connected with this book so strongly.  I was so excited to see a community of all faiths that embrace Hanukkah.  And to see Hanukkah traditions as just part of the regular goings-on of a community?  I just kvelled!

Here is a short list of the things I want to exist just out there, in life:

-Sufganiyot (soofganiyot or “soofi”) latte.  (I actually tweeted about this to the author and apparently the Manhasset Barnes and Noble did create a recipe for this and if you think I didn’t run right out an order one, you haven’t been reading this blog too closely.  Of course I did!  The recipe: almond milk latte with raspberry and vanilla syrups – my Starbucks tall needed only one pump of each.  It was delicious!!!) (For Hanukkah newbies {or FHN for short}: sufganiyot are jelly filled donuts that are traditionally eaten on Hanukkah.  We eat a lot of fried food on Hanukkah.  A LOT.)

Hanukkah Breakfast of Champions: sufganiyah (donut) and Soofi Latte (with my book)

-Gelt Mocha/Latte (Haven’t had this concoction yet.  It seems harder to make because gelt is just chocolate so isn’t that just a regular mocha?  Will investigate more.) (FHN: Gelt are chocolate coins that are eaten on Hanukkah.  They are often used as gambling items during games of dreidel during the holiday as well.)

-The Story of Hanukkah by Dr. Leonard Abraham (when Sarah’s bookstore hosts the reading for this book, I wanted it badly.  A history of celebrating Hanukkah?  A must read!  Was this based on a real book?  Also to be investigated.)

-All of Sarah’s Hanukkah paraphernalia. (Every time a specific article of clothing was mentioned, I immediately googled it.  I am now the proud owner of an “I’m Menorahble” shirt.  Among others.  Also, I think Sarah Goldman is my Hanukkah soulmate.  We both love love love this holiday so much!!!)

-All the artisans who participate in the festival.  (Hanukkah specific jewelry, art, etc? Sign me up!!)

-Hanukkah Markets (for the love of all things Hanukkah, WHY CAN’T THIS BE REAL!?!  Christmas markets are the best – shopping and public outdoors drinking?!?  Someone, somewhere – combine my two loves, please please please!)  

-Latke buffet.  (YES!!) (FHN: Potato pancakes are traditionally made with potatoes and onions and fried in oil.  Although Chana’s latke buffet featured the traditional potato latkes and lots and lots of different types of latkes made from other vegetables like Brussel sprouts, squash, etc.  The only qualification is that they are fried in oil.  Oil is a very important part of the Hanukkah story.)

I definitely recommend this book to Jewish people who want to see their holiday as the centerpiece of the holiday season.  Also, to non-Jews who identify with being other during the “Christmas” season.  And for anyone who wants to understand what it feels like to be an outsider during this time too.

Miracles and Menorahs, published 2020

All my menorahs (hanukkiahs) lit up for the 8th night of Hanukkah!

3 thoughts on “Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern

    1. I was thinking that this could be a thing in Israel, but I was hoping for someplace a *little* bit closer to home. And the soofi lattes are SOOO good! I’m getting one today!! 🙂 Thanks for reading!!

      Liked by 1 person

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