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Light Fell

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Awarded the 2009 Stonewall Prize for Fiction, the first and most enduring award for GLBT books, sponsored by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table.

Twenty years have passed since Joseph left behind his entire life—his wife Rebecca, his five sons, his father, and the religious Israeli farming community where he grew up—when
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Soho Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  253 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book. A writer friend of mine (Debra Darvick) met the author at a recent Jewish Book Fair, and this is what she put in her blog:

To hear the women tell it, Joseph Licht, the protagonist in Evan Fallenberg’s first novel, Light Fell, is neither sympathetic nor likable. In fact, during the Q&A one of last night’s attendees put it pretty bluntly, “I didn’t like any of the characters in this book.”

Fallenberg, who is not only likable
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of book I simply couldn't give enough stars to! Evan Fallenberg is a superb writer and a man with great insight into his characters. When they speak, they come alive. The book tells the story of an Israeli family man, Joseph Licht, who falls in love with his (male) rabbi. At first it looks as though it'll be a book about the struggles the two men face as homosexuals in the religious Orthodox community. But there's an early twist that sets up a wonderful family drama between Jose ...more
Apr 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Joseph Licht is turning 50, and has invited his five sons to share a celebratory weekend. This will be the first time in the twenty years since he left them and their mother for brilliant young Rabbi Yoel Rosenzweig that all of them are together at one time. The years have been full of pain in many ways, yet his main regret has been the loss of his sons. Surprisingly they all show up, but the weekend is still full of judgment and recrimination, and forgiveness seems yet to be illusive. Sad, but ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janice Weizman
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What would you do if, midway into your life, you realized that the choices that you've made in your life were the wrong ones? Would you continue acting, pretending that everything is fine while longing to live differently, or would you make a drastic change, leaving behind and cruelly disregarding the people, beliefs and community that have always defined you? Although Joseph Licht's dilemma revolves around issues of homosexuality and religion, there is much in this book that will speak to anyon ...more
Dec 21, 2007 rated it liked it
I read this the other day but forgot to blog about it. It's about an Israeli man who left his fairly religious family for another man, and twenty years later he's about to reunite with all five of his sons for the first time in those twenty years. The sons are a weird microcosm of Israeli society and the end felt pretty pat, but it was a pretty good read anyway. B. ...more
Mar 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Sue by: Beth Sholom Library
There's nothing terribly wrong with this novel, but I found that a quarter of the way through the book, I was bored & didn't care about the characters. Life is too short... ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Found it a little too slow moving at times.
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nongenre, awarded, lgbt
This was incredibly interesting read and one exquisite debut novel. Evan Fallenberg has indeed created (as the blurb say as well) “a uniquely drawn protagonist”. The book tells the story about Joseph, an educated Israeli man, professor of literature Harvard graduated, a husband and father of five … who fells in love with a rabbi.

Now, this novel indeed won several literary awards reserved for GLBT literature such are 2009 Stonewall Prize for Fiction or 2008 Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction (
Jon Carl
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as I did his later work The Parting Gift. So may good reviews have been written about this book that I'm not entirely sure what new to say at this point. It is refreshing to read about a gay man in middle age and a gay story that focuses on the attempt at reconciliation with a family, rather than the oft-told stories of young gay men being estranged from their families. I hope for m ore literature like this; it shows a maturing of the genre as all of us, G-d willin ...more
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Half-way through this novel I almost gave up on it. It was hard to meet on its own terms, its plot turns a bit melodramatic, its tone almost operatic. An Israeli scholar, married with five young sons, becomes enamored of a charismatic rabbi, and after a four-month affair leaves his family. Taking place as it does within the context of religious beliefs that condemn what he has done, this turn of events creates a tidal wave of ramifications that grow and converge years later at a fiftieth birthda ...more
Sherrill Watson
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
A VERY Jewish story, able to be understood by nearly everyone -- and I'm not Jewish.

Joseph Licht, in Isreal, married to Rebecca, (a nice Jewish wife), with five young sons, is attracted to Rabbi Yoel Rosenzweig, also married, who "had read every volume of the Talmud a few times . . . and can quote just about everything that ever been written about Jewish law." Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in their religion. Forbidden: and yet, "God has three ways of letting two people know they are divine
Micha Meinderts
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
The word that mostly drifts to the surface while thinking about this book is "pathetic". Mostly because I thought the main character was pathetic, despite his brave choice. He's just an all around unpleasant character, mopey and unsatisfied and because he tells his children why this is, rather than let the reader see it without wording it explicitely, it doesn't really sink in. It's like I'm hovering on the outside of a glass bottle, trying to taste the contents.

The story was slightly pointless,
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it
As posted in []:

For his 50th birthday, Joseph Licht is making special recipes for one big dinner for his sons. However, Joseph has an ulterior motive and that is to ask his sons for forgiveness for what happened 20 years earlier.

20 years earlier, Joseph, a literature professor, meets Rabbi Yoel Rosenznweig, who is something of a genius/prodigy of the Torah. Something connects between the two of them. Almost without a second thought, Joseph abandons his faithful wife and 5 s
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Joseph Licht, who lives on a religious moshav in Israel with his wife and five sons, is drawn into a close emotional and physical relationship with his idol, a serious and highly-regarded religious scholar, himself married and a father. The repercussions on both their families form the focus of this story of facing your sexuality.It is interesting to see how Josesph battles to maintain a good relationship with his sons as they are growing up, with very limited success until their renewed gatheri ...more
This book about an Orthodox Jewish man who falls in love with another Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and then must leave his family walks a little too far on the side of melodrama but still is an engrossing story of struggle with tradition and sexual inclinations. The depiction and description of the Israeli Orthodox characters includes a lot of very realistic details about the day-to-day considerations Orthodox Jews take in order to be observant, like preparations in the home for Shabbos. The reference ...more
Dec 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Joseph was an Israeli professor with five young sons who left his wife because he was in love with an Orthodox rabbi. Twenty years later he’s invited his estranged adult sons for his 50th birthday. Suddenly on his birthday, he becomes a wise man, when he was often an idiot before, dispensing excellent advice to his sons. “He tries to remember which prophet said, ‘Many shepherds have ravaged my vineyards and made my pleasant field a desolate wilderness; the whole land is waste and no one cares.’”
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Joseph, an Israeli scholar, falls in love with an Orthodox Rabbi and leaves his wife and five children after a four month affair.

I give Fallenberg major props for being willing to tackle a main character who isn't precisely likeable. Joseph, while oftentimes unlikeable, remains finely drawn and ultimately human, while on the eve of his 50th birthday he reflects back on his life and relationships -- with lovers and his children. The novel occasionally veers towards melodrama, but remains gorgeou
Oct 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Twenty years after leaving his family for the rabbi he loves, an Israeli literature scholar calls his five sons together to celebrate his 50th birthday. Flashbacks into the main character's life, glimpses of the lives of his sons, and, eventually, dramatic hijinks ensue. Some characters/plotlines were a bit cliched and others were insufficiently developed. But I can't help thinking that this could be a fantastic movie, if only someone would make it. ...more
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm always interested in coming out stories among different cultures and this is the story of a Jewish Torah scholar who leaves his family for a teacher. What I liked about this book is it was not always flattering to the protagonist which gives way to moral ambiguity on his actions. A little soap opera-ish at the end, otherwise a good examination of the complexities of families and cultural expectations. ...more
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Joseph is a religious scholar who lives on a Moshav in Israel with is wife and five sons. When Joseph is in his late thirties he meets and falls in love with Rabbi Yoel Rosenzweig. Joseph leaves his family to pursue a new life and spends the rest of his life coming to terms with his decision and the effect it had on is family. This book is very well written and to me is about acceptance, taking responsibility and ultimately the ability to forgive and move forward.
Margaret Klein
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cki-book-group, 2020
This is an award winning novel about being gay in Israel. It is about family relationships strained and repaired--some of them in any case. It is about the perceptions and misperceptions of Jewish law. It is elegantly written--and translated. The first part of the book I thought was better. The middle was not as well done but the ending made up for the middle. And a very interesting read for a fairly conservative (small c) synagogue book group. The discussion might be heated.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it liked it
A Isreali man leaves his family for a rock star rabbi. Now, after twenty years of estrangement, his children are traveling to their father's house in Tel Aviv for Shabbat.

Althought the book's premise is slightly unusual, anybody who has a complex family relationship---which is basically everybody---will relate to this book.

Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very lyrically written and beautifully rendered story about one man's choices and the pain caused by those choices. It had some of the most stirring and lovely sex scenes that I have ever read. I also learned about the different segments of Israeli society as represented by his 5 sons.

A really good book.
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A thought-provoking book. Well written, sad, as sometimes literary reads can be, as well as life. But a good story focusing on religion, relationships, perspective, children and parents, and life choices.
Nov 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, what there was of it, but I thought the complex characters needed more room to develop. It felt a lot like a short story, and the end was a bit too pat (also in the way of many short stories). I will definitely read any other books this author writes though!
Jul 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Could have been a better told story if the author had focused more on the issue of being gay in Israel, or in the Jewish community rather than a lousy, selfish Dad trying to maintain any connection with the 5 sons he abused, abandoned.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
A life story, beautifully written, about becoming the person you were meant to be. This book tackles the topic of homosexuality within the Orthodox Jewish community. The reader is taken on a journey, not often spoken about. And in the end, the truth shall set you free.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I couldn't keep the five brothers straight but this was none-the-less a well-written, interesting, and compelling read. The author is a very well known translater of works by Meir Shalev, Batya Gur, and Ron Leshem so I was interested to read one of his original works. ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written and a profound book. It is about the deep and compelling places love takes you, when love strikes. In this case, the love was between two orthodox Rabbi's. And the aftermath.

Highly recommended.
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A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Fallenberg is a graduate of Georgetown University and the MFA program in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and has lived in Israel since 1985. He is coordinator of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University; coordinator of literary translation in the Department of English Literature at Bar-Ilan University; ...more

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