Third Night

NP third nightTitle: Third Night      
Author: Neil Plakcy
Cover Artist: Deana C. Jamroz
Publisher:  MLR
Buy link:
Genre: Contemporary
Length:  7,000 Words

Rating:  1.75 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Stuart

Review Summary: The great Orthodox Hanukkah story remains to be written.


Will Joe’s Hanukkah wish come true—a way to reconcile his belief in the tenets of Orthodox Judaism with his attraction to his friend Yehuda?

Can Joe reconcile his belief in the tenets of Orthodox Judaism with the religion’s disapproval of his sexual orientation? Or will his crush on his friend Yehuda ruin their friendship and leave him ostracized by his community? What will happen on the third night of Hanukkah?


I approached Third Night with such anticipation, excited to read a Hanukkah story where Orthodox Judaism would play a central role. Understandably, most authors set their Hanukkah stories among less observant Jews, finding it sufficient to create atmosphere by decorating the narrative with brisket, dreidels, latkes, and menorahs. The demands on an author when setting a story in the world of Orthodox Judaism are great for what is potentially a very small audience. I was amazed and pleased that Neil Plakcy wanted to make the effort and completely dismayed when I read the results.

His story is thoroughly riddled with errors about Orthodox Jewish history and practices. Most of these mistakes were fixable by simple Google searches. I know because I Googled them to see how easily he might have obtained accurate information.

For those who care not about Judaic accuracy, the story itself contains zero narrative tension. The object of Joe’s affection is absent for 2/3 of the book, while Joe ponders and wanders. Yehuda appears, they have sex, some dubious theology makes it OK, HEA. The story fails in its unfolding, its resolution and its world building. The great Orthodox Hanukkah story remains to be written.



    • I hope so, Sirius!! This year’s crop left me sad.

      Here’s a plot. The story can be set in Roman Palestine, 10 B.C.E.

      The followers of Rabbi Hillel observed Hanukkah the way we do now, lighting one candle per night. The followers of Rabbi Shammai began Hanukkah with 8 lit candles and subtracted one candle each night.

      Ezekiel, a follower of Rabbi Hillel, and Michah, a follower of Rabbi Shammai, meet and fall in love during the Hanukkah season. Can their love survive their conflict over how to light the Menorah??? Only time will tell!

      The conflict will be heightened because neither will tell the other why he is upset. This Big Misunderstanding will make the story more compelling. Also, both were straight until they met, which will make it even HOTTER. 💡

  • I read this in December and thought it was a decent read, but didn’t like all the detail about Orthodox Judaism because it seemed unnecessary for the story. I’m not Jewish and so whilst the detail was interesting because it taught me about something I didn’t know before, it didn’t forward the story or the romance in any way. Now it turns out all that detail wasn’t even accurate! My feelings about the book have sunk lower.

    • I tried to make lemons into lemonade by turning the mistakes into a game with Mike. He knows more about Jewish law than my Mom, since he has to navigate the Kosher and Shabbat laws when I’m in a period of rigorous observance. So, I’d read him a paragraph of Third Night, he’d laugh and tell me how the main character, supposedly Orthodox, was unaware of the laws he was violating. Good times.

    • True. Especially when it’s in a specialized setting, not likely to get written very often, and I was really excited about it!!

  • Hey Stu

    I read this book a few weeks ago. My first impression was that these MCs spent hardly any time together, and when they did meet there was no chemistry. What struck me was that they were dull. I had a few other concerns about the book but I’ll just say it wasn’t on my Top Ten Books for 2012.

    • Wave-
      I generally don’t read short stories because I think they are more difficult to write and most don’t succeed. Very few seem able to establish satisfying characters, background, setting, conflict, & resolution in such a short format.


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I live with my husband and our boxer dog in the beautiful Hudson Valley. If only I loved nature as much as I love a good book!
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