An epistolary novel in which an unreliable narrator describes his move from the United States to Israel, where he begins an intense love affair with a spice dealer whose decision to take another lover as well ignites jealousy, obsession, and revenge.
Evan Fallenberg’s The Parting Gift is a slim, riveting novel that takes us deep into the classic themes of love, attraction, jealousy, and revenge. Though it has at its heart the story of a relationship between two men, the story succeeds in shedding a fascinating light on the meaning of gender, both male and female, and the way in which sexuality lies deep in the subconscious, shaping and dictating what it is that we want and need from our lovers. It’s a sharp, short, streamlined text, compelling and vividly readable from the first sentence, and falling easily into that category of books which are 'difficult to put down' ... Set in Israel, against the backdrop of the sights, smells, taste, and histories of the people who inhabit it, this is a book that shows Israelis and Arabs in a fresh, unsentimental light. The politics of the region, so complex and intense that they could overtake the narrative, provide a subtle undertone, a background against which the actual, flesh and blood story plays out. The book has evoked favorable comparisons with Lolita and Rebecca in that we find ourselves identifying, even as we wince, with a skewed view of the world. The prose, like the narrator, is pointed, unforgiving, tight, single-minded. This slim volume could be read in one long, intriguing sitting, leaving the reader to come away with fresh perspectives on the drama of sexual politics.
Fallenberg does a marvelous job crafting a perspective both strong and suspect. Seemingly innocent remarks, ideas or acts become ominous in hindsight as a pattern of instability (and perhaps worse) is revealed. The Parting Gift is sexy and tense, full of danger and uncertainty. In some ways, it is the story of lust turning to love and then turning cold. But it is also a chilly psychological thriller. The arrogant and slick letter writer constantly teases and mocks Adam, and while he says he wants to be honest, it seems he has ulterior motives. He is manipulative, and the letter itself is vaguely threatening. Fallenberg has important points to make, and he does so with a style that is both concise and lyrical. The Parting Gift examines relationships of all kinds, as well as themes of masculinity, identity and otherness, hypocrisy, and the power of sex and jealousy. Readers are free to decide what the parting gift is: the letter, the knowledge, the near-threats and offers made to Adam. Full of the scents, sounds and vistas of Israel, this is a fascinating, commanding and fantastic read.
Evan Fallenberg’s novel The Parting Gift takes the reader through the emotional turmoil of love, lust, trust, and mistrust that often accompanies affairs of the heart ... Fallenberg has designed a main character who is not terribly likable, and yet, an Everyman, because 'he' experiences those same tough sides of life that everyone experiences, and he deals with them in much the same way as Everyman does. The story is so well put together that the reader almost takes the lead from one step to the next. We think we know what’s going to happen next, and then we discover we are wrong . . . or are we? And at the end, Fallenberg leaves the reader wondering the true purpose of this lengthy letter—until the very last sentence. This is a small book, quickly read, and definitely belongs on the library shelf!