Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review of The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg

There’s a lot of sex in The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg (Other Press, September 4, 2018). Let’s start with that. Excessive, graphic, homoerotic sex which may turn off many readers. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let us consider where this vividly described sexuality leads its narrator-protagonist—an unnamed Jewish American currently camped on his friend Adam’s couch after returning from an extended stay in Israel.

In a book-length letter to Adam, the narrator offers a “long-overdue explanation of my mysterious appearance at your door these four months ago.”

The story the narrator tells starts at a Tel Aviv absorption center but veers in an unexpected direction after a visit to a nursery housing Israel’s most extensive collection of herbs and spices. There he meets Uzi, the spice guy.

“He was going about his business with no mind to me, while I was going about his business with no mind to myself,” the narrator explains. It is a case of lust at first sight. For the narrator, same-sex relations are nothing new but for Uzi, apparently, this greenhouse encounter is a first-time experience.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Visit to the Oldest Surviving Jewish Synagogue Building in Greece

On a narrow alleyway off the main pedestrian thoroughfare in the Old Town of Rhodes, a set of steps leads up to an unpretentious doorway opening to a historic building and a small shaded courtyard. This is Kahal Shalom, the sole remaining synagogue on a Greek island which was once home to 4,000 Jews. Now serving as a museum, and only very occasionally for services, Kahal Shalom offers a welcome respite from the touristy hustle and bustle in the nearby streets, as well as a fascinating immersion into the story of one Greek Jewish community, its history and culture.

My wife and I visited Kahal Shalom on our recent visit to Rhodes, a family trip which offered something suitable for all generations: beaches, a waterpark, shopping, a boat ride, an exploration of picturesque villages, good dining, nightclubs, and a fair amount of ouzo. On one day though, we left the children and grandchildren at the hotel pool and made an additional trip to the Old Town, with Kahal Shalom as the focus of our visit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

"Vivid imagery made me want to wander the streets of Bulgaria"

The book starts off with a brutal terrorist attack, which is based on a real terrorist attack that took place in July of 2012 at Burgas Airport. A bomb was placed and detonated on a bus, and the blast subsequently killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver. No one was ever held accountable for the attack or the deaths, which is unfortunately a tragic reality when it comes to terrorist attacks and also crimes in general. This means the loved ones who are left behind never get any closure let alone any kind of justice.

One of Shuman's strengths and indeed I would consider it a talent, is the way he describes the surroundings. The way he can evoke vivid imagery in the mind's eye of the reader. The reader sees and experiences Bulgaria through his words and emotional connection. It made me want to wander the streets and take in the history and architecture. Not every author can evoke that kind of response.

Read the rest of the review, as well as a Q&A session, on CherylM-M's Book Blog.