Sisters, secrets, sorrow, and devotion: Evening is a short novel, heartbreaking and funny, about the complicated love between two sisters, one mourning the other. Eve, the narrator, returns home from New York to Toronto for the funeral and shiva of her older sister, Tam, a famous Canadian TV journalist who has died in her thirties, far too young. Full of contradiction, Eve struggles with ambition and romance. even during shiva. Tam was devotedly married, fiercely successful, disdaining what she viewed as Eve’s inability to choose, whether in work or love. But all of Eve’s assumptions will be undone by what she discovers over these shiva days. On the morning after the funeral, Eve learns the first of the secrets that will overturn her view of her family and her future. Then there is Laurie, Eve’s great first love, who suddenly appears in the shiva house. Eve knows something will happen, but so, within her, does Tam, whose wisecracks and scorn accompany Eve as a voice in her head during this week of grief and transformation.
Evening: A Novel
Courtesy of Nessa Rapoport and Counterpoint
- Evening opens with Nana’s aphorism, “One loves, the other is loved.” How true is Nana’s claim about her own life or the lives of Eve and Tam? Do you agree with her assertion? Have you inherited sayings from your family about the nature of love?
- Visitors to the shiva perceive Tam as having everything and Eve as being inevitably jealous of her. Yet Eve states strongly that she is not — and never has been. What are the terms of Eve and Tam’s relationship at the start of the novel, and how does the issue of jealousy change over the course of the story?
- In what ways do the meaning and time frame of the ritual of shiva determine the events of Evening and the emotional growth of its characters?
- “Do all people have one story that haunts them throughout their lives?” Eve asks (p. 7). In addition to Eve and Tam, there is a second dyad of sisters — Nana and Nell. How does Nell’s life shape Nana’s view of love and its risks? How does Nana impose it on her judgment of Eve?
- Evening is suffused with family secrets. Eve’s perspective is “I have always been intrigued by what is hidden” (p. 29). But for Nana: “Some stones are best left unturned” (p. 30). What are the advantages and losses to keeping or revealing secrets within Eve’s family?
- First love has a unique enchantment. Although Eve has not thought about Laurie in years, her unexpected desire for him dominates a signifcant part of her homecoming. “I … want everything back: my sister, our youth, desire uncomplicated by history … More than anything, I want the incomparable elixir of beginnings” (p. 62). What is the role of memory in erotic life? How much is Eve’s present-day attraction to Laurie shaped by a past that is not connected to him? What is the place of grief in the awakening of Eve’s desire?
- Eve is obsessed with the past. Evening’s narrative shuttles be- tween present and past in Eve’s life and the life of her family over three generations. ere is also the shadow of history: the horror of World War I and the British women writers who had to invent new lives in its wake; the Holocaust’s devastating reach; the early feminists, including Nana, and their struggles for agency; the distinctive Canadian Jewish history of Nana’s family. “How could I explain to her, my seemingly logical sister, that the past has a bouquet … ?” Eve asks (p. 160). Does Eve’s porousness to the past enrich her life or impede her, as Tam claims?
- By the end of the novel, Eve has learned a lot about illusion. What are the costs to Eve — and in what ways is she also released by her discoveries?
- Eve describes her relationship with Simon as “We are neither here nor there, immobilized on an Iceland of relationships, decisions adjourned” (p. 36). What realizations allow Eve to see Simon’s virtues and choose him? And what alters his stance toward Eve?
- “Simon is the first man to understand the sway of language over me,” Eve says (p. 55). “I left you because you couldn’t speak English!” (p. 178), Eve wants to cry out to Laurie as they drive back to Toronto from the cottage. When Eve reunites with Laurie, she believes they have a communion more powerful than words. How is Eve’s passion for language an active factor in her idea of herself and in Simon’s allure?
- Eve’s point of view on her mother’s relationship to beauty changes over the novel, from the seeming frivolity of interior design to a profound conversation (pp. 219 – 21) about the deep beauty of the world.” How do you understand the wisdom of what Eve’s mother is trying to relay?
- What does Evening have to say about the possibilities of forgiveness when relationships end without reconciliation?
- Tam has died before the book begins, but she is still alive throughout the story, not only in memory but as a constant voice in Eve’s head. The sisters continue their conversation, both bickering and banter. And Tam literally has the last word. How do the dead accompany characters in Evening? How do they accompany us?
- How does the title, Evening, represent the book’s meaning and the sisters’ lives?
The story of two sisters and their lives, ambitions, loyalties, loves, and disappointments are revealed in this lyrical novel by Nessa Rapoport. Unfolding over the seven days of the shiva of Tam — a devoted wife, mother, and successful journalist—Evening is narrated by Tam’s younger sister, Eve. Evening is a portrait of a family and of the inner lives of these two sisters. The story examines the sisters’ relationships and reveals their secrets as against the landscape of their family history. Written in poetic prose, Evening is a rich, intimate, poignant novel that probes the depths of human understanding and forgiveness. Rapoport has created a beautiful work that will stay with the reader long after they put down the book.
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