Sadie in Love

(16 reviews)


Publication Date: July 31, 2018

In her warmly comical and deliciously entertaining debut novel, master storyteller Rochelle Distelheim sweeps us back to 1913 and the world of struggling Jewish immigrants in New York City’s Lower East Side.

Sadie Schuster—fortyish, plumpish, a suffragette, and recently widowed—spends more time now talking to her late husband, Fivel, than when he was alive. Sadie keeps Fivel informed of her daily activities—especially her pursuit of a husband—because “An empty bed is a cold place for a hot-blooded woman.” A lover of ballroom dancing, the moving pictures, and night-school English words, Sadie’s true talent lies in the magic love knots she artfully crafts for lonely, unwitting, immigrants willing to purchase hope wrapped in a schmattah for fifty cents.

Selling love knots while seeking love, Sadie consults with her magic spirits to woo Herschel— the muscled ice peddler who reads poetry and pines for his newly departed wife. Her daughter, Yivvy, sells secondhand, possibly “pinched” tchotchkes in her antique shop and plans to marry the Irish cop on the beat. Enter, Ike Tabatnik, the “Dance King of Riga, Latvia,” just off the boat and ready to take on America and Sadie’s heartstrings. Comedy and chaos follow.

A stunning confession, following the wedding of one of her love knot clients—which begins with one groom and ends with another—pushes Sadie to make a surprising choice. She then throws herself at the mercy of her magic spirits, asking them to do quickly for her what they have been doing for her customers—before it’s too late.

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Additional information

Publication Date

July 31, 2018


Perfect Paperback, E-book


978-0984549412, 978-0984549429


222 pages


5.5 x 8.5 inches

16 reviews for Sadie in Love

  1. S Shapiro

    Forget about on-line dating. Return to 1913 New York, where newly-arrived Jews lived in crowded tenements where gossip is everyone’s business and matchmaking is accomplished through the hutzpah of Sadie Schuster, a forty-one-year-old widow who speaks to the spirits and works her magic by making love knots for the lonely. Warm, funny, smart, determined and needy Sophie has her heart set on marrying the newly widowed Herschl Diamond, a seller of ice. Sadie loves people and dancing. She is helped in her pursuit of the reluctant Heschl by her glamorous upstairs tenant, Mitzi, a madam run out of Chicago. Complications multiply when her daughter, Yivvi get’s too friendly with an Irish-Catholic policeman and her new border, Ike Tabatnik, says he will help her, or maybe not, win a hundred dollar dance contest and, if the spirits cooperate, make Herschl jealous. Rochelle Distelheim carries the reader back to the crowded, colorful and noisy streets of Yiddish-speaking Jews who want to speak American, though they aren’t sure their ready to trade in their old-world ideas. The unfolding story is laugh-out-loud funny and poignant. Who wouldn’t want to know Sadie, a budding suffragette, who is looking for love and passion? Luckily, the reader gets to go on her adventure of affirmation.

  2. Sharon S.

    I don’t recall loving a book, or a heroine, as much as I loved Sadie in Love, and Sadie. She lived more than 100 years ago and yet this lady is completely accessible and modern. Sadie is hilarious without knowing it, a visionary, a force who just wants to drive the bus, finally. Buy and read this book. Now. As they say, you’ll thank me later.

  3. caroleS

    I absolutely loved this book! The main character, Sadie, is a delight. She’s funny, determined, smart and streetwise. Watching her navigate the immigrant culture in 1900’s New York City is fascinating and laugh out loud funny. Sadie loves “American” words – especially 4 syllable words – and gives them as “gifts” to her friends who speak Yiddish. I savored every page of this book. When I finished, I started it over again so I could spend more time with Sadie. This one is a must-read!

  4. Elinor Lipman — author of “The Inn at Lake Devine” and “On Turpentine Lane”

    Is it possible that a reader can love every word of a novel? In this case, a resounding yes! I was entranced by this story, its eye and ear, its food, its characters, its wit, and the nostalgic Hester Street thrill of being transported to the Lower East Side of the early 1900’s. Brava, Rochelle Distelheim.

  5. Sharon Fiffer — author of “Lucky Stuff and Home: American Writers Remember Rooms of Their Own”

    Looking for love? Who isn’t? Good. You will fall for Sadie Schuster. Hard. And you won’t need to spend fifty cents for one of her handcrafted love knots either. You just need to curl up with this delightful story about a woman for whom love is a business, until she discovers she needs some passion in her own life. Who doesn’t? For that matter, who doesn’t need a little magic now and then? Well, lucky you, because Rochelle Distelheim’s luminous first novel contains magic, passion and pure joy. So read it. Live a little.

  6. Jennie Fields — author of “The Age of Desire”

    If you don’t fall in love with Sadie in Love on page one, you may be dead. Or, perhaps you can’t read. Because the characters in Rochelle Distelheim’s comic novel, set in New York’s Lower East Side in 1913, are so delightful, they will snatch your heart before you know what’s happened. A Yiddish folktale of magic, love and hope, it is sure to put a spell on every reader.

  7. Pamela Painter — author of “Ways to Spend the Night”

    I fell in love with the irreverent Sadie Schuster as she takes to heart her horoscope’s reading that she must ‘learn to live with passion.’ She doesn’t just ‘learn,’ she pursues passion and the men who might embody it. Brash, witty and brave, she turns to the obituary column to ask, ‘Whose wife was gone?’—even as she takes part in dance contests and the suffragette movement of early twentieth century New York.

  8. Fran Eichenauer, Educator, William Floyd Schools — Reviewer on NetGalley and Goodreads

    Sadie Schuster, of Polish-Jewish descent, lives on New York’s Lower East Side in 1913. Husband Fivel has recently died leaving her with an eight room flat on Orchard Street. Sadie is a hustler of sorts. Besides collecting rents, she runs a love knot business. Purchase a love knot for 50 cents and Sadie promises that the one you love will be ‘pulled’ in your direction. Plan the wedding! Sadie is a chubby, middle-aged force to be reckoned with. She speaks to deceased husband Fivel regularly. She meets with suffragettes like herself and is determined to march for the women’s right to vote. Most importantly, Sadie wants love and passion in her life. In Poland, a ‘match’ was made for her. Now in America, she wants to choose a man herself. Enter iceman, Herschl. Sadie needs a plan and a love knot for herself. How should Sadie go about hooking a husband? She approaches her tenant, Mitzi for assistance in helping her ‘pretty up’. Well, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’. Will a hearty meal pique Herschl’s interest in Sadie? Sadie in Love by Rochelle Distelheim is a delightful immersion into Jewish immigrant life in 1913 New York. Images of ice wagons, pushcarts of fruits and vegetables, and conversations in a mixture of Yiddish and night school English prevail. There is a burgeoning attempt to be American, the exception being Sadie’s daughter Yivvy’s choice of boyfriend. Author Distelheim’s debut novel is one of hope, magical spirits and comedic scenes in Sadie’s quest for love.

  9. Ellie Potts Barrett, Dance Educator/Choreographer at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts — Reviewer on NetGalley and Goodreads

    Sadie in love . . . she could have been one of my relatives. Reading this book brought back memories of my grandpa who came to America from Russia in 1905 at 18 years of age. Sadie spoke the same way, I could hear the wonderful inflections. The lower east side, my favorite part of New York, came to life in this book . . . all those delicious Jewish foods, borst, herring, gefilte fish . . . pickles!!! This was a great read. Perfect in length, and delicious in story. Thank you to Rochelle Distelheim for bringing back memories of a life and relatives I never really knew. Mom grew up on Rivington Street, and Orchard Street and the Tenement Museum are my favs!!! This book should definitely be sold in the bookstore of the Tenement Museum!!

  10. Gail Nelson — Reviewer on NetGalley and Goodreads

    Did I love this book!! I just love Sadie! She could have been my bubbe! I loved the Jewish immigrant way of life on the lower East Side in 1913. I could just smell the herring and the pickles! Loved the Yiddish words and Sadie’s inflection. Made me smile from beginning to end.

  11. Cristie Underwood — Reviewer on NetGalley

    I loved this book and reading about the immigrant experience in 1913 on the Lower East Side. The author’s detailed writing really kept my interest.

  12. Ethel Fagin, A Bookworm’s Reviews — Reviewer on NetGalley

    1913 and the lower East Side of New York. Filled with immigrants, you could actually smell the flavors of the tenements, almost hear the accents spoken. And then there is Sadie, a Polish immigrant who owned a tenement building and made “love knots” promising those who requested them they would soon be married to the person of their choice. Now it’s Sadie’s turn after losing her husband to ask the “spirits” to help her in her conquest to meet the man she chooses. This book is delightful. The combination of Yiddish phrases and American translations was humorous and brought back memories of my grandparents. The description of the foods, from the pickled herring to the borscht, reminded me of years past. This heartwarming story of the immigrant life in 1913 was a gift. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

  13. Jayne Sims, Dear Author — Reviewer on NetGalley

    I wasn’t quite thrilled with the romance Sadie has her heart set on. Herschel is a tough nut to crack and more than once I was afraid Sadie would need to subvert herself and hide who she really is and what she is passionate about. What does Herschel think about votes for women? In the end, I think everything is okay but honestly, I wasn’t sure as I finished the story. It’s more a HFN than a ‘call the rabbi and book the New Hennington Hall’ even if all your events can be catered there. I also got tired of reading about Sadie’s fingernail and the spirits she calls on. As a snapshot of life in the Lower East Side, it’s fantastic. As a romance, ‘eh, not quite so much. B.

  14. Jill Meyer — Goodreads

    Sadie in Love, set on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1913, features Sadie Shuster, a young 40ish widow, who doesn’t necessarily miss her late husband, Fivel, but she misses having a husband. Fivel died a couple of years before, leaving Sadie a fairly affluent widow who owns an apartment building. She is famous in her neighborhood for her “love charms”, which are guaranteed to find love for the buyer. She can find love for others, but not for herself. Distelheim’s book is a look at Jewish and other immigrants lives in those years of heavy immigration in the pre-WW1 years. Most of the characters are relatively new to the country and still live, it seems, half-way between Poland and the United States, retaining the old customs and adding the new ones. A young man, Ike, newly off the boat from Riga and who may – or may not – be married with wife and kids back home, does interest Sadie. She also meets the iceman – Herschel – and falls into “interest” (I can’t really say “love”) with him. Herschel is newly widowered and not ready to succumb to Sadie’s schemes. Other characters wander in and out of the story as Sadie lives an independent life as a widow-on-the-genteel-make. Would Sadie do anything different if she was a 2018 widow? Probably not; human needs and desires are little changed in 100 years and “love charms” and the like are advertised in the backs of supermarket tabloids. Rochelle Distelheim has drawn a lovely character and story line in “Sadie in Love”.

  15. Susan — Goodreads

    Liked, didn’t quite love this book. The last chapter was the strongest; it felt like the author wrote and polished that scene first, and then built the rest of the book around it without quite the same skill level. Sadie was a force of nature, and I enjoyed her journey from lonely widowhood to exploring passion and discovering what she wanted in a partner. Also appreciated the complex relationship with her daughter. Some of the other subplots, especially the one involving her wealthy tenant, kind of fizzled. Overall an interesting story, especially for readers like me whose immigrant grandparents might have crossed paths with Sadie.

  16. Arlene Handler — Goodreads

    I was unable to put down Sadie in Love. The descriptions of everything made you feel like you were everywhere with Sadie! She was a good person with lots of “chutzpah” and a mind of her own!

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