Covid-19 lockdown, when my daughter—then in her junior year of college—moved back home, along with her roommate. I’d become used to being the only woman in a
household of men. But with the addition of two outspoken, insightful, college-age women, the conversation around our dinner table shifted. We talked about what they were studying in their classes and about the challenges young women face: socially, academically, and in the professional world.
The more they revealed about their lives, the more I thought about my own: the stories my mother used to tell about her father’s refusal to let her go to college; the fear that used to overwhelm me when I walked home late at night alone; the time when the senior partner at my Manhattan law firm tried to intimidate me into joining his practice area––the way he shut the door to my office and screamed until I could feel his spittle on my cheeks. Mostly, I thought about the fact that, although thirty years had passed between my experiences and my daughter’s, so very little had actually changed.
That summer, our favorite lockdown television binge was the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. At some point, my daughter’s roommate told us about her grandmother, who had worked as an Orthodox Jewish matchmaker in Brooklyn. The New York Times had even run an article about her. Suddenly, a multigenerational matchmaker book began to occupy my thoughts.
As the story came together, I poured my frustration about the challenges all young women face into its pages. My research revealed that most Jewish matchmakers in early 1900s New York were men, so I imagined what it would have been like for my character Sara to earn a living while competing against them. I imagined how a group of religious men might treat a young, unmarried woman who was blessed with a gift that allowed her to excel in their chosen career. I thought about my own experiences as a young lawyer in the 1990s and wove those disappointments and insecurities into Abby’s professional life. The Matchmaker’s Gift became more than a story about love––it became a story about women whose intelligence, ambition, and gifts were suppressed, but who nonetheless found the strength to follow their calling.
Of course, in keeping with its title, The Matchmaker’s Gift is also about love––not only the romantic, amorous-kind but the love shared between family and friends. It is a book about the love between a grandmother and a granddaughter, and the love we hold onto even after loss.
This story, and the time I spent with my daughter and her roommate, were the silver lining to my lockdown year. I hope it brings you some of the joy that I found while writing it.
Thank you for reading,
-Lynda Cohen Loigman