Publication Date: Sep 04, 2018
An erotic tale of jealousy, obsession, and revenge suffused with the rich flavors and intoxicating scents of Israel’s Mediterranean coast.
An unnamed narrator writes a letter to an old college friend, Adam, with whom he has been staying since his abrupt return to the States from Israel. Now that the narrator is moving on to a new location, he finally reveals the events that led him to Adam’s door, set in motion by a chance encounter with Uzi, a spice merchant whose wares had developed a cult following.
From his first meeting with Uzi, the narrator is overwhelmed by an animal attraction that will lead him to derail his life, withdraw from friends, and extend his stay in a small town north of Tel Aviv. As he becomes increasingly entangled in Uzi’s life—and by extension the lives of Uzi’s ex-wife and children—his passion turns sinister, ultimately threatening all around him.
Written in a circuitous style that keeps you guessing until the end, The Parting Gift is a page-turner and a shrewd exploration of the roles men assume, or are forced to assume, as lovers, as fathers, as Israelis, as Palestinians.
Excerpt from The Parting Gift
My friends handed over the baskets, and he weighed and punched in numbers until eventually he came up with a grand total that could have been a completely bogus number but I suspected was not. He dumped everything into plastic bags with the same logo as his T-shirt and handed them over.
Maya and Danny and Ariella took out their wallets and paid in cash.
“This is a really great place,” Maya said to Uzi. “We read about you in Haaretz.”
He nodded. He may have smiled but it was hard to tell under the sandy beard and mustache that covered the lower half of his face.
I stood watching all of them. My friends from Tel Aviv, this man, the Spice Guy. Uzi. I said nothing. I did not move. I wasn’t even thinking, though I believe now that the powerful smell from his body may have been trapped in my nostrils and affecting my brain. Maya and Ariella and Danny pocketed their change; Danny lifted two of the bags, Maya and Ariella one each of the others. They said goodbye, thanked Uzi, started heading for the front of the coop. Uzi was busy with the cash register.
He’d pressed a button and the day’s transactions were scrolling forth.
“Yoo hoo,” Maya called back to me from the vegetable section. “What d’you forget?”
I stood there, immobile. “I’m staying,” I called back.
Ariella and Danny stopped at the entrance. Uzi looked up from the register, as if noticing me for the first time. I looked him straight in the eye and said it again, softer this time, to him only. “I’m staying.”
“An erotic, mysterious novel.” —New York Times Book Review
“A feverish and hypnotic epistolary novel, and a tantalizing literary treat. While wholly its own creation, readers may feel the influences of Patricia Highsmith (the sense of mounting dread) and Edmund White (the white-hot sexual encounters are salacious, surprising and erotic)…haunting, emotionally satisfying and beautifully written.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“Magnetic…a complicated study of the ways in which religious heritage—from codes of honor to familial expectations—interacts with business and acceptance, family and lovers, and self-realization…A beautiful novel whose only fault is ending too soon.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The Parting Gift is itself a gift, an intricate and complex story, beautifully and tenderly told. It offers one surprise after another and accomplishes what only great literature can by compelling us to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” —Imbolo Mbue, New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers
“This is a perfect little book—a whip-crack of a story, propelling us so seamlessly and irresistibly from vulnerability to viciousness, from the familiar to the monstrous, that it’s in a class with Lolita and Rebecca. In prose both sensuous and eviscerating, Evan Fallenberg sweeps us onward where we’d otherwise drag our feet, into terrain where one loses track of just who is twisting the knife in the narrator, in the reader, in the soul of a country.” —Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink
“Intoxicating. Intense. Impiously pure. Evan Fallenberg has penned a ‘lust letter’ to the human condition and brilliantly depicts the engagement of sex in the pursuit of love. From the first page, The Parting Gift dares you to put it down, and you will not because the language is simply riveting. This brutal epistolary novel is disturbingly profound, a Giovanni’s Room in a beach town north of Tel Aviv where the sights, tastes, and most of all the smells are simply to die for.” —Xu Xi, author of Dear Hong Kong
“An unabashed tale that does not pull punches and looks at love’s underside only to find in the brute sex between two men the binding stuff that makes us all selfless and selfish. We may dream of loyalty in us and in others but find treachery everywhere, more in us perhaps than in others. For there may be no truth in life, and love is wicked, stubborn, always scared, never kind. And yet there is a twist at the end that is worth every page of this breathless story that should only be read in one sitting. It hits hard and never lets up. Terse, brusque, etched on one’s inner thigh with an old serrated knife.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name
- How does the introductory part of the letter to Adam serve the author in introducing the protagonist? What can we learn about the protagonist while reading this introduction?
- Who is Adam? Why do you think the author found it necessary to keep Adam as a constant presence throughout the novel? How does the author’s use of Adam throughout the novel serve the reader / stimulate the plot?
- How would you describe the protagonist? How does the protagonist’s character change throughout the novel? What stimulates this change? Does the protagonist’s behavior surprise you in any way in the beginning, middle or end of the novel?
- How does the metaphoric spice world of the “Spice Guy” motivate the plot?
- What is Rinat’s role in the protagonist’s life with Uzi? How does the protagonist use her? Why do you think the author chose an eating disorder to manifest her emotional damage / illness? Why does Rinat take up the protagonist’s offer to be his sous chef? What do Rinat and the protagonist have in common?
- Who, in your opinion, is the antagonist in the story?
- What is the turning point of the novel?
- Could the novel have ended differently, in your opinion?
- Discuss the author’s decision to make the sex scenes so explicit.
- What do you think the novel is about? What are the themes / is the message to the reader?
- Have you learned anything about yourself while reading the novel?