Review of Light fell BY evan fallenberg
A family reunion, long in the making, forces a father and his five sons to face their feelings and each other in Light Fell, an exploration of family and love.
Five sons, estranged to varying degrees, reunite with their father, Joseph, for his fiftieth birthday. Joseph was thirty when he fell in love with a prestigious rabbi and left his family and his home on a moshav for a new life, In the ensuing twenty years, the bitterness and hurt felt by each of these six men has only grown: Joseph, expecting to face the world with Rabbi Rosenzweig at his side, has instead led a primarily loveless and solitary life. His sons, meanwhile, have searched for solace and comfort in substitute fathers, the military, extreme religion, and legions of other ways.
Evan Fallenberg, in Light Fell, explores the price people pay for love, both familial and passionate. His novel, a slight 229 pages, relies on suggestive prose and a reader’s imagination to offer shades of gray. As the narrative bounces from perspective to perspective, the reader is shown both the world and the family’s history from Joseph’s, his ex-wife’s, and his five sons’ perspectives. With so many views, Fallenberg struggles to tell even such a contained story in such a short space.
Fallenberg has succeeded most with the propulsive love story. Joseph is the most realized of the characters, and his awakening at meeting Yoel Rosenzweig is both tender and exciting. His inability to find satisfaction as a husband and father weigh on him, and Fallenberg offers the right, if few, details to show how his frustrations manifest.
Less three-dimensional, unfortunately, are his five sons. Each is given a characteristic or two from which the reader is meant to glean enough to understand his role in the world and the family. Daniel is quiet, thoughtful, and the most bitter. He hides his success as he hides his familial shame. Ethan, feeling his father’s absence, commits to a life in the Israeli army in an effort to transform himself into the perfect male leader. Noam flits from woman to woman, committing to but needing no one. And Joseph’s youngest sons, twins, retreat into religious life, inviting the harshest strictures and imperfect people into their lives as if their due. Cursorily drawn, they are more characterizations than life-filled, believable characters. Each of Joseph's sons is a window into the ways parental failure can affect a child, but none are explored enough to carry the intended emotional punch.
As Fallenberg's narrative culminates, the six men share family secrets never before spoken of, confronting their personal demons and each other. Questions are left unanswered, making Light Fell both suggestive and potent. This book, like its characters, is imperfect; Light Fell proposes, intentionally or not, that perfection is not as valuable as connection. And, in this way, Light Fell is a success.
Originally appeared in Enfuse, a Colorado-based arts, culture, music, and literature publication with additional offices in San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, and Vancouver.