By: Susan Sofayov
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: January 2018
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: May 9, 2018
Julie Wasserman struggles to go on with her life after the devastating loss of her twin brother in an automobile accident. Will exotic travel and a new love help her resolve her “survivor's guilt” and move on with her life?
As Jerusalem Stone opens, we’re taken to a beautiful beach on an island in Thailand where we meet Julie Wasserman. Julie is a young woman desperately searching for something – something to release her from the pain of missing her beloved brother Jack. Julie is convinced that she is the reason Jack is dead and she can’t forgive herself. She has traveled to Thailand because it was a place Jack always wanted to visit and she hopes that she might find a bit of peace traveling to the exotic location.
As Julie sits on the gorgeous beach, watching other people enjoy the glorious day, she is approached by a man she assumes is a beach bum. With a dark tan, a backpack, and his brown hair falling below his shoulders in a tangle of dreadlocks, he certainly gives off the air of somebody who lives on the beach. But it’s his piercing eyes and bright smile that really catches Julie’s attention. The young man introduces himself as Avi Gold, and he’s definitely not shy as he quickly works his way onto Julie’s mat.
Julie unwillingly strikes up a conversation with Avi – she’s not looking for friends and would really prefer to be left alone to read her book. But Avi is persistent and won’t take no for an answer. He pours on the charm and it isn’t long before Julie agrees to have dinner with him. She is surprised to see so many people, both at the Chabad House, as well as on the streets of Phuket, who know Avi and greet him as they would a dear friend. Avi is, no doubt, a handsome man, but there’s something more to this mysterious man.
Julie may, reluctantly, be falling in love with Avi, but she holds herself back from her true feelings because of the immense guilt she feels over her brother’s death. Avi tries his best to get Julie to attend several services at Chabad, thinking this might help her, but she isn’t interested. Going to services reminds her of Jack, who never missed the Kabbalat Shabbat service at their local Chabad House. Even meeting Avi’s good friend, Rabbi Sam, doesn’t help convince Julie. At the same time, Avi does his best to persuade Julie that their meeting was bashert (meant to be), but she refuses to believe. Perhaps a romantic trip to the jungle, or even a trip to Israel will help Julie let go of the past and move on with her life…
Author Susan Sofayov set the scene perfectly when the story opened as I was instantly transported to that beautiful beach, listening to the splash of the waves along with Julie. The street scenes, the jungle trip, the visit to Israel – these locations all came to life with the guidance of Sofayov’s pen. The author also does a nice job of building her characters into believable people with real-life struggles. It’s easy to feel Julie’s pain at the loss of her brother, and her conflicted emotions when she wants to love Avi but is afraid to let go of her guilt. There were also numerous interesting discussions between Julie and Avi about life, religion and whether there is such a thing as bashert. The one criticism is that as the story progressed, Julie continued to be paralyzed by her guilt and she became somewhat annoying. She was visiting amazing places in Israel with a wonderful man who was deeply in love with her and still her mind kept going to her brother. I found myself starting to wonder how Avi could really love Julie if she could not let go of her pain. Other than this minor point, the story was quite enjoyable, and I look forward to reading more from Susan Sofayov.
Quill says: Jerusalem Stone is a heartfelt and engaging story about one woman’s struggle to let go of her guilt and move on with her life and new love.