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Susan Sofayov
Jerusalem Stone

Everything she knew just crumbled. Can she rediscover her strength from thousands of miles away?

Julie Wasserman’s whole world is in pieces. Already reeling from the loss of her job, part of her heart shattered when her twin brother died on the way to provide consolation. Determined to honor her sibling, she takes his dream trip to Thailand… only to be pestered on the beach by a hunky dreadlocked Israeli intellectual.

Though she’s drawn in by his ripped abs, not even his renowned work and a surprise visit to Jerusalem can keep Julie’s guilt-ridden mind off her brother’s fatal accident. But the nearer she draws to the alluring man and his spirituality, the more she wonders whether she truly deserves happiness.

Spellbound by a stranger, can Julie learn to love and heal?

Sofayov (The Kiddush Ladies) delivers a novel of healing and grown-up romance, centered on Julie Wasserman, a Jewish woman from Pennsylvania who finds her world shattered after the death of her twin brother, Jack. She treats herself to a trip to Thailand as part of her recovery, but ends up meeting the dashing Avi Gold instead–and careening headfirst into instant chemistry. Caught between grieving her dead brother and falling in love, Julie finds herself at the crossroads of an irrevocable decision. What will she decide, and where will that choice lead her?

The novel is bursting with scenes of romance described with persuasive sizzle (“A kiss is just the meeting of lips. This was a merger”), as much of the narrative revolves around Julie’s whirlwind love affair with Avi, while the two of them traverse first Thailand and then Israel together. Intricate descriptions of Julie and Avi on the tourist circuit as they experience everything from vendors on the streets of Phuket to praying in front of the Wailing Wall often prove novel and will engage readers fascinated by international sojourns.

At times, Sofayov’s combination of a central romantic plot with a brisk travelogue can seem jarring. Julie’s conflict—to either grieve her dead brother or open herself to Avi’s love—is internal, and readers impatient for the romance to flourish may find themselves wondering why, two years after her brother’s death, she cannot allow herself to do both, or elect to pursue the possibilities of a relationship some time in the future. “I feel like if I give you my whole heart, it’s stealing from him,” Julie says. A passage in which she contemplates people’s tendency to say things like “He would want you to be happy” is incisive, as is the message of each heart needing to heal in its own time. Lovers of travel and patient romance will enjoy this novel, which is as much about love as it is about experiencing new things and places.

Takeaway: Lovers of romance and travel will enjoy this story of a woman discovering new beginnings while facing grief.

Great for fans of: Nicholas Sparks, Audrey Niffenegger.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Feathered Quill Book Reviews

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.

Left On The Shelf Book Blog

On September 15, 2008, Julie Wasserman’s life collapsed. In the morning, she lost her job at Lehman Brothers. That afternoon, she lost her twin brother, Jack, in a car crash. 

A year and a half later, she returns home to Pittsburgh to start a new job and live up to a pledge to visit her brother’s grave every day. With six weeks to wait before the start of the new job, she steps out of character and purchases a plane ticket to Thailand, the one place her brother dreamed of visiting.

She arrives in Thailand, focused on trying to figure out how she is going to live in the world without her twin brother and best friend. But an interruption in the form of a sexy Israeli, Avi, distracts her from this goal. As he tries to make her see that their meeting was beshert, meant to be, she insists that she must return home to live up to her promise to Jack.

Feeling responsible for Jack’s death, Julie believes that he wouldn’t want her to be happy, but would expect her to mourn for the rest of her life. Can Avi find a way to convince her they are bashert and Jack wouldn’t want her to stop living, or is Julie doomed to a life of guilt and unhappiness unless a higher power steps in?

With the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle taking place tomorrow I fancied a bit of romance in my reading. Jerusalem Stone falls perfectly into that category and overall was a good read.

The thing I really liked about this book was the atmospheric descriptions of place. The story takes place in Thailand and Israel, neither places I have been fortunate enough to visit as yet, but I certainly want to now. Ms. Soayov's evocation of the travels of the two characters are extremely well done and she brought the places to life upon the page. The heat, smells and noises were palpable. In fact, the title takes it's name from the type of stone used on the buildings in Jerusalem and her descriptions were so elegantly drawn that I almost felt as though I was there.

If I am honest, it took me a little while to engage with the main characters in this book. Avi seemed too good to be true and Julie was so emotional that I could not imagine than any man would not run a mile when confronted by her tears on virtually every occasion that they met. Of course, she has been through some very difficult times and, therefore, it was not surprising that tears were always just below the surface. However, I think that was exactly the point that the author was trying to make. Avi is not an average man but someone whose understanding of Julie's pain was indeed quite remarkable.

Their relationship was about far more than two like-minded people meeting and falling in love whilst on holiday. Rather, there was something spiritual in their meeting and their love for one another was not confined to earthly reasoning but was determined by a higher power. Whilst the characters in this book are Jewish it is not a religious story. Whether you call it  destiny, fate or God it is about a kind of love that was meant to be.

Without giving anything away I loved the way this story was wrapped up so neatly at the end. I dare not say more as I would hate to spoil your enjoyment of this very satisfying story.

Reviewed By Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite

Jerusalem Stone by Susan Sofayov is an inspirational and engaging story that follows one woman’s journey in search of meaning after being struck by tragedy and loss. Twenty-three-year-old Julie Wasserman loses her job the same day her twin brother and best friend, Jack, is brutally killed in a car accident. Consumed by grief, she resolves to visit her brother’s grave every day. But then having many weeks before the start of her new job, she decides to visit Thailand, the one place her brother had always wanted to go. A chance encounter with an attractive Israeli man at the beach pulls her out of her mourning. She quickly discovers that she is developing feelings for the handsome young Avi and is falling for him — something she sees as betrayal to her brother. But can Avi make her believe that their meeting is more than a coincidence? 

A tale of loss, grief, and romance with surprising twists and turns in the plot that readers won’t see coming. It begins with awesome images of the beach and the reader is immediately introduced to Julie and Avi. I loved the character Avi — handsome, but with a sense of humor and persistence that makes it impossible for Julie to ignore him. The themes of death, loss, grief, solitude, and love are handled with great skill and they are ingeniously embedded in the story. Susan Sofayov’s writing is exquisitely good, with descriptions that are vivid and that conjure up beautiful images and scenes. The author shows a great gift for setting, plot, and character, but it is her ability to unveil strong emotions in the characters that got me. An impeccably good and moving story.

The Jewish Lady Blog

My favorite author of Jewish-themed books, Susan Sofayov, has created a remarkable follow-up to The Kiddush Ladies with her latest novel, Jerusalem Stone. Inspired by events and travels that took place in her own life, Susan has shaped them into a fictional story that’s remarkably rich, full, and moving.

Anyone who is at a crossroad in their life will identify with protagonist Julie Wasserman. Having lost her job at Lehman Brothers during the collapse, she is dealt an even worse blow when her brother is killed in a head-on collision. Because they are twins, Jack is not just a sibling, he’s her best friend, and life seems very bleak without him.

Consumed by grief, she moves back to their hometown (Pittsburgh) so she can visit Jack’s grave daily. With 6 free weeks before her new job begins, Julie makes a bold choice to visit Thailand because Jack had dreamed of going there.

A chance meeting on Patong Beach throws her for a loop, when an Israeli named Avi introduces himself with the following line: “Do you know that over two hundred and fifty people each year are killed by falling coconuts?” Not looking for a romance, Julie is hesitant, but Avi’s good looks and charm win her over. They spend time getting to know each other and enjoy fun tourist adventures together all over Thailand, becoming so close he takes her back to Israel.

Believing that Jack would want her to keep mourning, she is torn between grief and romance. Can Avi—and a higher power—find a way to show her that true love does exist and that she definitely deserves it?

What I enjoy most about Susan’s books is how relatable the characters are. She creates real-acting people going through real-life stuff; it’s not always pretty and it’s never perfect, but it’s always so moving. Of course, I’m always a sucker for a good love story, too, and Julie and Avi are so right for each other, I found myself hurrying through the pages, praying they’d make it work