Review: I’ll Be Home for Hanukkah by K.K. Hendin (2020)

The Girls in Apartment 5G, Book #1

Heat Factor: They do not even kiss, my friends.

Character Chemistry: Noam is extremely opaque, but he plays with Shayna, who is a bit tightly wound, so it’s fun

Plot: Shayna and Noam, Orthodox Jews who grew up in NYC, are suddenly and unexpectedly sent to North Pole, Alaska just weeks before Christmas, for an end-of-year review meeting with a big client

Overall: I really enjoyed this read, mostly because it’s so playful

Noam Gold has recently transferred to the New York marketing office where Shayna Adler works, and they are unexpectedly asked to travel to North Pole, Alaska to provide an end-of-year report to a huge client instead of having their usual meetings in the New York office. The client’s Alaskan assistant/office manager confuses Shayna with her Christmas obsessed office mate Shannon, and sets up a winter wonderland, Hallmark special, Christmas extravaganza itinerary to make all of Shannon’s dreams come true. Shayna and Noam don’t really know how to say no to the itinerary without making their client unhappy, so they mostly go along with what the office manager has set up for them. It’s totally bonkers and it’s meant to be. 

This book is a quick, fun read. Shayna and Noam have no experience with Christmas other than what they see at their office and talk about with work friends, so their landing in North Pole is pretty entertaining. And a little serious. Shayna, in particular, is worried about all their Christmas-related itinerary activities being halakhah. Noam is supportive (being also frum) but less stressed out about everything than Shayna. They’re trying to keep their billionaire client happy, so they keep doing these activities they’ve never done before that don’t really make any sense to them because they have no emotional attachment to – for example – cutting down Christmas trees. But also they go shopping for their own Kosher food and prepare to celebrate Shabbos and Chanukah in their hotel rooms, so they’re also staying grounded in their own traditions, and that’s what connects them as they get to know each other better and fall for each other more. And then, also, Shayna and Noam are simply at an age where they’re looking for a partner and bummed they haven’t found the partner yet, so there are plenty of external and internal things happening that pull Shayna and Noam together. 

I also really liked that Shayna and Noam’s boss was supportive and, like, a good boss. So many office-related stories have a boss who’s a jerk or unaware of the protagonist’s struggle, so this was a really upbeat story all around. 

If you are a reader who really likes sexy books, you probably won’t be satisfied with this book, otherwise I can envision it having relatively widespread appeal. From the perspective of a non-Jewish person who grew up in a Christian/Christmas-centric culture, I found Shayna and Noam’s adventures charmingly funny. I’d imagine that for a Jewish reader, Shayna and Noam’s “how did we even find ourselves here?” would also be pretty entertaining. I will say that I was looking up a lot of words, which is something I enjoy doing because then I’m learning, but if you are not intimately familiar with Jewish-specific vocabulary, be prepared to look up words or simply not quite understand what the characters are describing (because they’re all Jewish and understand what everyone else is saying, as one does). 

There’s plenty of silliness and there are some points where further development of a plot point or characterization would have been beneficial – it’s 3rd POV but all from Shayna’s perspective, so Noam is a bit of a question mark – but it’s meant to be a pretty fluffy story. Don’t go into it expecting it to be something that it’s not, and you won’t be disappointed. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?

Books set in Alaska

Light-hearted funtimes

Holiday Specials

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