Sweet Like Sugar by Wayne Hoffman

 

In Yiddish, there is a word for it: bashert—the person you are fated to meet. Twenty-something Benji Steiner is skeptical of the concept. But the elderly rabbi who stumbles into Benji’s office one day has no doubts. Rabbi Jacob Zuckerman’s late wife, Sophie, was his bashert. And now that she is gone, he grapples with grief and loneliness.

Touched by the rabbi’s plight, Benji becomes his helper—driving him home after work, sitting in his living room listening to stories. Their friendship baffles everyone, especially Benji’s sharp-tongued, modestly observant mother, but Benji is rediscovering something he didn't know he'd lost.

The test of their friendship, and their faith, lies in the difficult truths they come to share. With each revelation, Benji learns what it means not just to be Jewish but to be fully human—imperfect, striving, and searching for acceptance. 

Check out Wayne's website here


Below you can find the Twitter discussion of Sweet Like Sugar with author Wayne Hoffman that took November 8th, 2011. Make sure to follow Jewish Book Council (@jewishbook) for more Twitter Book Club events!

JewishBook: It's 12:30, time for #jbcbooks twitter #bookclub w/ @waynenextbook! All fans of Sweet Like Sugar join us to discuss Wayne's amazing novel!

JewishBook: Hi @waynenextbook, thx for joining! To kick off, could you give us a 145 character summary of Sweet Like Sugar- in your own words? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: .@jewishbook Sweet is about a young gay man's friendship w/an elderly Orthodox rabbi, and what they teach each other. #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@JewishBook But *really* it's about fate, and why certain people enter our lives, and what we can learn from them #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@waynenextbook did you ever experience a similar situation of fate? where did the inspiration for this story come from? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook:  .@jewishbook I'm a strong believe in bashert/fate. People enter our lives for a reason... #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook ...but the inspiration for Sweet came from many dif episodes in my life, growing up as a gay Jew #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook The first scene is actually directly inspired by something that happened at the Forward, where I worked #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@waynenextbook did a rabbi come in sick to your office there too? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook Almost! A sick older Orthodox man came into my office to lie on my couch. Turned into 1st scene in book! #jbcbooks lawrenceschimel: @waynenextbook @JewishBook Just read your essay about this in CHELSEA STATION 1 :-) #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@lawrenceschimel A wonderful new literary journal! #jbcbooks

sidelinedbeth: With your theme about fate--have you determined Mrs. Goldfarb's fate? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@sidelinedbeth In 1st draft of novel, Goldfarb's story was tied up neatly. Then I untied it :) #jbcbooks

sidelinedbeth: It leaves room for a book about her. Any thoughts of including Mrs. Goldfarb Heb'w Sch Tcr turned bookseller in a new book? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@sidelinedbeth I have thought about ways to move characters forward. Or have them meet ones from my first novel Hard! #jbcbooks

JewishBook .@waynenextbook so would you say you wrote yourself into the story at all? possibly as the main character, Benji? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@JewishBook Well, Benji is younger than I am, and while he asks similar ?s he gets different answers... #jbcbooks

elesscom: Hi @waynenextbook: who was your favorite "non-lead" character to write? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@elesscom I have a soft spot for Irene, rabbi's childhood girlfriend. Largely bec. I named her for my great aunt Irene. #jbcbooks

nycbook:  .@waynenextbook In 1 post for JBC blog u mentioned there was a story behind the name Zuckerman (http://tinyurl.com/7bu3l9f). #JbcBooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook Well, it's NOT a Philip Roth reference! :) #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook There's a story behind the name Zisel, a mysterious character in Sweet. It's a nod to IB Singer's story "Two" #jbcbooks

BookGal102:  .@waynenextbook The title seems to reference Rosh Hashanah--was this the intention?#JBCBooks

WayneNextbook: /@BookGal102 Good ? but not intentional. It's a reference to a story about one of the characters in the book #jbcbooks

nycbook: .@waynenextbook Why was Passover the holiday you decided to start and end on (rather than RH, YK, etc.)? #JBCBooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook Passover has always been most imp. holiday to me, and comes up in almost everything I write... #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook ...as an atheist, the shul-based holidays don't hold as much meaning for me as home-based Passover. Always been true. #jbcbooks

JewishBook.@waynenextbook did you have any particular goal when writing this book? a message to potential readers? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@JewishBook 1st goal for all writers: Find agent/editor/publisher/readers! :) 2nd goal: try 2 start discussion re subjects & book #jbcbooks

JewishBook.@waynenextbook haha well, perhaps some more social-minded goals? or was it more about writing what you know? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbookWanted 2 explore subject close to my heart, but In writing any novel, you realize how much you DON"T know #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@JewishBook Def. wanted 2 write something to make people rethink divisions w/in Jewish community, and how 2 bridge our gaps #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@JewishBook ...and stress the way personal connections can help us overcome dogmatic/political/social divisions #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@waynenextbook Interesting, so what did you NOT know? Any life-changing realizations occur? 

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook Had to get inside the mindset of 80-something Orthodox widowed rabbi. Didn't know what that would be like #jbcbooks

nycbook: .@waynenextbook What was your goal in exploring Benji's sister and her marriage-and his parent's reactions to his sister's husband #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook Wanted to show that gay people aren't only 1s dealing with constraints/disapproval from family/community #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook ...and 2 show that even when you "do everything right" people still find reasons to criticize your choices #jbcbooks

JewishBook: .@waynenextbook what's some interesting feedback you've received upon publishing Sweet Like Sugar? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook Most interesting: Email from non-gay non-Jews about how much story resonates with them... #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook ...Jews aren't the only 1s facing these issues, nor are GLBTs only 1s dealing w/alienation from relig. communities #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook Even a specific story can have universal resonance. #jbcbooks

JewishBook: Before we wrap up,@waynenextbook will you be touring at all to promote the book, or do you have any events coming up? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook Been on tour since Sep., still going! Coming up: NYC, DC, Florida. Visit http://waynehoffmanwriter.com for info. #jbcbooks

JewishBook: Well thanks to everyone who joined and particularly to @waynenextbook for participating! #jbcbooks http://waynehoffmanwriter.com

WayneNextbook: /@JewishBook Thanks, y'all! #jbcbooks




lawrenceschimel: @waynenextbook @JewishBook Just read your essay about this in CHELSEA STATION 1 :-) #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@lawrenceschimel A wonderful new literary journal! #jbcbooks

sidelinedbeth: With your theme about fate--have you determined Mrs. Goldfarb's fate? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@sidelinedbeth In 1st draft of novel, Goldfarb's story was tied up neatly. Then I untied it :) #jbcbooks


sidelinedbeth
: It leaves room for a book about her. Any thoughts of including Mrs. Goldfarb Heb'w Sch Tcr turned bookseller in a new book? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@sidelinedbeth I have thought about ways to move characters forward. Or have them meet ones from my first novel Hard! #jbcbooks

JewishBook .@waynenextbook so would you say you wrote yourself into the story at all? possibly as the main character, Benji? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook/@JewishBook Well, Benji is younger than I am, and while he asks similar ?s he gets different answers... #jbcbooks

elesscom
: Hi @waynenextbook: who was your favorite "non-lead" character to write? #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@elesscom I have a soft spot for Irene, rabbi's childhood girlfriend. Largely bec. I named her for my great aunt Irene. #jbcbooks

nycbook:  .@waynenextbook In 1 post for JBC blog u mentioned there was a story behind the name Zuckerman (http://tinyurl.com/7bu3l9f). #JbcBooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook Well, it's NOT a Philip Roth reference! :) #jbcbooks

WayneNextbook: /@nycbook There's a story behind the name Zisel, a mysterious character in Sweet. It's a nod to IB Singer's story "Two" #jbcbooks

BookGal102:  .@waynenextbook The title seems to reference Rosh Hashanah--was this the intention?#JBCBooks



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