When literature professor Joseph Licht invites his five adult sons to celebrate his 50th birthday in 1996 Tel Aviv, he hopes to win his boys' love and forgiveness by plying them with their favorite foods. From that opening in Fallenberg's ambitious debut, Joseph's life unfolds in retrospect: 20 years earlier, as a married father of five, Joseph discovers he is gay as he falls in love with a charismatic, and married, rabbi. The rabbi kills himself not long after he and Joseph start their affair, and a crushed Joseph, in one fell swoop, jettisons his marriage and adherence to Modern Orthodox Judaism. The familial repercussions are myriad and extreme, leaving Joseph's wife bereft and his sons with issues that range from low self-esteem and lack of trust to fanatical nationalism and religiosity. While Joseph and the rabbi's lovemaking is sentimentalized, and Joseph's and one son's homosexual awakenings seem abrupt, Fallenberg's descriptions of Israeli life, from the rural and academic arenas to the gay milieu, are credible and absorbing. The book adroitly sketches the heartfelt struggles of a sympathetic cast. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Fallenberg (creative writing, Bar-Ilan Univ., Israel), who has translated the works of several renowned Israeli authors, presents his first novel, which takes place in 1996 Tel Aviv on the eve of literature professor Joseph Licht's 50th birthday. As Joseph prepares to reunite with his five sons for the first time in 20 years since he left their mother for a prominent male rabbi, flashbacks enlighten us as to the circumstances of his choice as well as to the characters of his sons, who serve as a bizarre microcosm of Israeli society, ranging from the completely secular to the ultra-Orthodox. After so much buildup, the denouement feels somewhat rushed, and several characters are little more than stereotypes. But Joseph's story, in which he eventually realizes his desires, is a compelling one. Recommended for general fiction collections.
Love between men-fathers and sons, as well as lovers-binds a sensitive first novel of family reconciliation. Israeli academic Joseph Licht, married with five sons, is shocked to encounter a kindred soul when he meets "young Torah genius" Rabbi Yoel Rosenzweig. The intensity of their love affair compels Licht to forsake his wife Rebecca and their children at the moshav and move to a small apartment in Tel Aviv. But almost immediately Yoel commits suicide. These facts are 20 years in the past when the book opens, on Licht's 50th birthday, as he prepares a meal to which his five sons are invited, coming together for the first time in two decades. Licht has weathered many difficult years since Yoel's death, finally finding happiness with rich Pepe, a crude (but loving) hedonist, in contrast with Yoel's eloquent intellectualism. The father's departure affected his sons differently-Ethan, the army officer, learned to take responsibility early, while Gideon, the ultra-Orthodox Jew, rejects his father's homosexuality as the sin of all sins. After the elaborate meal, Licht unburdens himself, offering the boys his side of the story. Angry eldest son Daniel counters with his account of saving Rebecca from a suicide attempt. But the next day brings a confession, a paternal reprimand, a long-lost suicide note and finally a frank conversation with Daniel that reopens the door to Licht's role in his family's life. Intelligent craftsmanship confined within a theatrical, excessively tidy format.