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Mr. Perfect on Paper


Mr. Perfect on Paper

In her second novel, following THE MATZAH BALL, Jean Meltzer continues writing about something that she's rather an expert on: Jewish life. MR. PERFECT ON PAPER is a charming tale of finding love where you least expect it. While a romance, it's also a glimpse into the lives of people who are struggling but keep their problems private.

Dara Rabinowitz is ridden with self-doubt. She suffers from GAD (general anxiety disorder) and is very candid about it. As a result, she prefers to live life close to her bubbe, Miriam, spending time with her and otherwise working from home while running her extremely successful and lucrative business --- a Jewish dating app called J-Mate. Dara, whose mother has died, is also close to her sometimes pushy sister.

"MR. PERFECT ON PAPER is a charming tale of finding love where you least expect it. While a romance, it's also a glimpse into the lives of people who are struggling but keep their problems private."

However, while the app she created works to find matches for other Jewish singles, Dara remains alone. Her anxiety precludes her from partaking in many activities, but one of her favorite pastimes is watching the daytime TV show “Good News New York.” She’s a fan of co-host Christopher Steadfast and their popular pet feature with Bucky, the vegan golden retriever. When J-Mate is marketing a new feature on its app, the opportunity to talk about it on the program is irresistible. Dara and Miriam are booked to discuss their respective careers as matchmakers. Miriam is the old-fashioned kind, having made over 300 matches in her lifetime. With her app, Dara is making connections using her grandmother's protocols updated with modern technology. She is thrilled that she will get to meet Chris.

When her grandmother goes off script on the show and shares a list that Dara drunkenly made one night with her sister about her requirements for a perfect husband, Dara is humiliated. But viewers are charmed, and the clip goes viral. While Chris had been in danger of losing the show due to poor ratings, thanks to Dara and Miriam, they are now looking great. So what could be more natural than Chris and Dara teaming up to find her a perfect match using her own list and airing the dates on the program?

Obviously, the first requirement is that the man be Jewish. He must be a doctor or a lawyer. While having the soul of an artist and speaking a second language, he should have no baggage like previous marriages or children. Chris fails on all accounts, but that's okay because he's intent on finding Dara her Mr. Perfect. As he gets to know her, he's charmed by her vulnerability. She, in turn, is touched by the way that he really gets her and understands her quirkiness and anxiety. Chris knows how to help Dara get over her fears in a manner that is supportive but not condescending. And along the way, we fall for both of them.

Meltzer has a knack for creating characters we really care about, which is certainly the case here. She also is able to share Jewish holidays and culture, along with conveying the huge differences in how Jews practice Judaism, so that readers can understand how Dara lives her life. Her writing is at times brutally honest in the emotional struggles her protagonists face, and she's quite open on social media about her own issues. Perhaps it's because of this honesty and self-reflection that the characters seem so real and vivid.

After apparently finding the man who checks off every single item on her "Mr. Perfect" list, Dara realizes that sometimes you have to listen to your heart, not your brain. Her "perfect" man, it turns out, sets off no sparks. In life there are no guarantees, and while something might appear to be perfect, there needs to be a connection, a feeling, a certain inexplicable something that draws two people together. That's more important than religion, career or any of the other points that Dara had itemized. In pursuit of perfection, one might find imperfection, a relationship that comes together beautifully. None of us is perfect, but we can be imperfect together.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on September 16, 2022

Mr. Perfect on Paper
by Jean Meltzer