September 1, 2019

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.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Nes­sa Rapoport and Counterpoint

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. Eve is obsessed with the past. Evenings 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?

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

  11. 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?

  12. What does Evening have to say about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of for­give­ness when rela­tion­ships end with­out reconciliation?

  13. 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?

  14. 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.