cover image When We Danced on Water

When We Danced on Water

Evan Fallenberg. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-203332-1

Fallenberg's (Light Fell) precise prose moves fluidly between the delicate and the bold, much like the aging dancer whose story he tells with such elegance. At 84, Teo Levin commands the dancers performing his choreography in the Tel Aviv Ballet with an authority and vigor that belies his age. He looks forward to his daily arguments about devotion and passion with 42-year-old artist Vivi, the waitress at a cafe he frequents. Vivi, aimless in the years since she fled preunified Berlin, finds her focus with Teo, at last. In turn, she forces him to share the secrets he's locked away about a shocking six-year period he endured as a young man in Nazi Germany. Fallenberg gives voice to the miasma of grief that overwhelms Teo and Vivi and achieves resonance in his exploration of music as a visual and physical experience. The author also manages to spin mundane discussions of passion and obsession into a rich narrative, skirting sentimentality. His spare style sneaks up on the reader, enhancing the emotionality inherent in his subject. (May)