I'm a huge fan of Paula Marantz Cohen. I stumbled upon her first novel, Jane Austen in Boca, while browsing in the library, and I've been a fan ever since. For some reason, I missed the publication of her second novel, Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan, even though I read her most recent one, Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death, and the SATs.
Although it's hard to name a favorite, Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan is certainly in contention. It's the story of Carla, a stay-at-home busy planning her daughter's bat mitzvah, volunteering all over town, helping her husband with his struggling medical practice, and figuring out how to calm down her misbehaving ten-year-old son. To make matters more interesting, her mother, Jessie Kaplan, who lives with Carla and her family, suddenly remembers she was the Dark Lady, Shakespeare's mysterious girlfriend in a past life.
The plot is somewhat preposterous at first glance, but Paula Marantz Cohen's deft storytelling and rich character's made me root for the unbelievable. I laughed out loud more times than I can count, and yet, I was touched by each and every character, as they were all refreshingly realistic, yet rich and loveable. I found myself wishing I could go to Stephanie's bat mitzvah and chat with the family. Perhaps most amazingly, I learned an absurd amount about Shakespeare, Venice and Jews in the 1500s. Paula Marantz Cohen is the best kind of academic; she seamlessly blends history and literature with a modern, amusing, and touching story.
4 stars (out of 4)
Challenges: Read Your Name (M in nomadreader), Support Your Public Library, 100+ Reading Challenge