A novel about sexuality, acceptance, and Middle Eastern culture.
National Jewish Book Award winner Fallenberg’s (When We Dance on Water, 2011, etc.) most recent novel starts when an unnamed narrator decides to write a letter to Adam, his old college friend, who's sitting across the room from him. Months before, the narrator arrived at Adam’s doorstep in a "middling city of America," providing no explanation as to why, how, or for how long. Launching into a 100-plus-page letter, the narrator explains the events that led up to his arrival. The narrator was visiting Tel Aviv with his friends when he met Uzi, a spice merchant whose smell was “meaty, truly pungent and ripe.” Compelled by the pheromones Uzi was releasing, the narrator decides to leave his friends and stay with Uzi. Immediately, the two engage in an animalistic, uncontrollably sexual relationship: “We were a mess, a heaving, sweating, panting, quivering mess.” Uzi, the typically macho laborer, welcomes the narrator into his home, to the surprise of his family, namely his ex-wife, who lives across the property. But homosexuality, however stigmatized it may be in Israel, doesn’t seem to be that important to Uzi’s family—their main concern is why now. Uzi and the narrator lead a typical life from then on, with the narrator spearheading the expansion of Uzi’s spice business. Everything is going well until Ibrahim, the son of Uzi’s friend, arrives for an apprenticeship. Filled with jealousy and resentment, the narrator progressively loses his mind. Fallenberg’s story is one of heartbreak in which guilt and feelings of inadequacy ultimately cause his characters’ downfalls. Written entirely in the form of a letter to Adam, the story is magnetic, drawing readers in from the first crotch-grab to the last goodbye. But more important, this is 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.