Dave Cunningham loves the family celebrations and traditions that come with Chanukah, but hates the focus on presents and consumerism. He feels it takes away from the spirit of the holiday he enjoys. But one thing that does make him happy this year is the chance to spend more time with his crush, Amit Cohen. Amit is the uncle of Jake, Dave’s brother in law, and he will be part of the joint family celebration.
As Dave spends more time with Amit, he learns the family secret: Amit is a golem, a legendary creature carved from clay who is brought to life for protection or to provide a service to his master. As if that isn’t shocking enough, it turns out the magic that brought Amit to life may be fading, which could lead to his death. And even if by some miracle they manage to figure out how to save Amit, Dave still must get over his anxieties about dating if he hopes they can have a real relationship.
I am always excited to see Chanukah stories this time of year, and Heart’s Alight offers a unique take on the holiday with its bit of a paranormal vibe. I think Cooper does a nice job bringing the flavor of the holiday into the story. We see the family celebrations and learn about some of the traditions in a way that works organically. It is enough detail to root the story in the holiday, but doesn’t overwhelm the short book. I also thought the golem aspect was interesting. The book reads very contemporary, so this is just a slight bit of the paranormal/fantasy woven in. As I noted, a golem is a legendary being created from clay, and we learn more about the legends, as well as why Amit was brought to life. So I thought this was a nice twist, especially tying in with the holiday in terms of miracles, magic, and other Chanukah themes. I did feel this went a little undeveloped however, and would have liked more detail on how Amit was created, how his life is different as a golem than a person, and how a future relationship with him might work. At one point they note that while Dave will age and die, Amit won’t, and that might be an issue, but then it is dropped and never addressed again. Also, the crisis over Amit’s magic and his fading health is resolved by halfway through the story. This seems like the main conflict of the book, and so after that, the focus gets a bit more vague, and the issues of Amit as a golem don’t really get brought up again.
After that point, most of the focus is on the guys dating and getting to know one another. Dave has a lot of anxieties and self doubts about his own appeal and the fact that he has different interests than a lot of guys, and this is the focus in the second half. I think we get a good sense of Dave and his personality, though I did wish for a bit more character growth as far as coming to terms with some of his issues. Dave is our POV character, and I found I didn’t get to know Amit as well. We get some background on him as a golem, but not necessarily his personality, or anything about him as a character. The guys have a pretty chaste relationship, FWIW, and we see them spending time together, but not much relationship development or sexual contact. The story ends with an HFN, and they are still pretty early on in their relationship.
Overall I enjoyed this one and found the golem angle to be really interesting. I also like the way the holiday is incorporated into the story. I did wish for some more exploration of the paranormal side of things, as well as on the relationship between the guys and on Amit himself. But if you are looking for a nice Chanukah story, this is a good one to pick up.