BY EVAN FALLENBERG
REVIEW BY: MARCIA R. RUDIN
I am approaching my fiftieth wedding anniversary, but I have vague memories from my long-ago youth of what it’s like to fall in love at first sight.
Such experiences did not end well for me; neither does the affair portrayed in the story The Parting Gift (Other Press), written by Evan Fallenberg, an Ohio-born writer who now lives in Israel.
I use the word “story” deliberately because as we read this remarkable novel, we feel as if we are sitting around a campfire listening to a tale beginning with the words, “It was a dark and stormy night…” From the first sentence, we are drawn into the narrator’s life, hanging onto his every word as we cheer him on to tell us what happens next.
The narrator, unnamed à la Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, uses an intimate first-person voice to address a friend to whom he is composing a letter, but we feel he is speaking directly to us. The connection we feel toward the storyteller is all the more surprising because The Parting Gift is an epistolary novel (told via a letter or letters), a technique rarely used today because it can be awkward and emotionally distancing. Here, though, it serves to make the story more immediate, partly because the storyteller asks us to sympathize with and condone his behavior, while urging us to probe our own emotions and actions.