Book: Flying Without a Net
Publisher: Interlude Press
Publication date: November 17, 2016
Length: 224 pages
Reviewed by Erin
Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life, but he can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.
Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?
As an avid reader (reading 5-7 books a week) there are times when I'm in the mood for a certain kind of book. It can be something funny, something that will tug at my emotions, even something that will keep me on the edge of my seat ... or sometimes, I just like to read a quiet story that follows two people as the begin a new relationship. Such is the case for E.M. Ben Shaul's exquisite book, Flying Without a Net. Gorgeous writing, engaging and utterly captivating characters, and a romance that had me swooning all over the place, this book wasn't like anything I expected, but it was just what I wanted.
The book focuses on Dani Perez and Avi Levine, two guys who meet by chance but are instantly attracted to one another. I was completely enchanted from their first meeting on. This is such a gentle book, the romance is almost innocent in it's development, due almost solely to Avi's being an Orthodox Jew. I have to confess, my experiences with Judaism in general are very limited. And to the extent that Avi is immersed in his, no experience at all. I found it all so fascinating, from the way he talks, to the way he dresses and eats and prays, I learned something new on every single page. I will say that the use of Hebrew and Yiddish terms was a bit challenging at times, but don't let this intimidate you in the least. The traditions and culture of Avi and his family are just so intriguing and interesting, you'll find yourself completely enthralled just as I was.
The writing is gorgeous in this book. It's quiet with no action or drama, just the struggle of Avi coming to terms with being gay while being devoutly religious and Dani wanting nothing more than to support Avi and love him. Their interactions are so sweet, but not to the point of saccharine or sappiness. Avi's journey to acceptance of himself and his faith were just so lovely. I loved Dani's complete willingness to be there for Avi, to not push and to not try to change him. It was hard for him at times, sure, but it's realistic. All of the secondary characters were well developed and played an integral part of the story. And can I just say I adored Avi's brother, Jake! He was just so fantastic.
As always with an Interlude Press book, the writing is spectacular, the story flows well, and the characters simply jump off the page. And let's not forget the fabulous cover?! IP has some of the best ones out there. Be sure to check this one out, people! We need diverse books, full of characters and settings and religions we might not always be exposed to. E.M. Ben Shaul's novel is wonderful and I am so excited to see what he writes next!
May the words of my lips match the words of my heart.
* * *
Avi looked at him, concern plain on his face. “What is it, Dani? Are you all right?”
“I'm fine. I just realized that I really needed to tell you now.”
“Tell me what, Dani?”
“I love you. You're… you are the best person I've ever met, and I'm proud and humbled to call you my boyfriend.”
He paused, part of him wondering why this was all spilling out now. It's not as if he hadn't known, probably since Avi's bike accident, that he loved Avi, but he hadn't been ready to say anything. And what he'd said to Avi was true—he wasn't saying this because he expected to receive anything in return or to hear anything specific from Avi.
In that moment, he wasn't sure what Avi would say or how Avi would react. The silence, though it had only been seconds long, was making Dani twitchy.
“Avi?” Dani was terrified that Avi would see his declaration of love as manipulative, as a ruse to try to get Avi back into bed, which it wasn't at all. “I… I don't expect you to say it back. I don't want you to feel compelled to express feelings you don't actually feel just because I said it. It's just that, while I was sitting in the bedroom trying to give you space and time to process, all I could think about was how much I wanted to wrap my arms around you and hold you and make you comfortable and happy.”
“Oh, chamudi, I…” Avi put his head on Dani's shoulder. “I love you with all my heart. I feel like I've loved you forever.”
List the first five things you would do if you suddenly had millions of dollars.
If I suddenly had multiple millions of dollars, I would do the following, probably in about this order:
1. Pay off my outstanding debts, including our mortgage, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about them any longer.
2. Buy a house with a back yard that our kids could play in. It doesn’t have to be a huge back yard, but I would want a place where they could put a climbing structure and some swings and still have somewhere to sit under a tree and read when they wanted to do that.
3. Invest some so that we’ll have enough to send both of our daughters to college without taking out significant loans. Because we have twins, we will be doing college at the same time for both of them, which means twice the cost. Having the money grow to allow them to go to the colleges they want to attend without having to worry about the cost would be a wonderful thing. Right now, when they’re seven, they barely understand the concept of college, but I’d love to be able to remove that future burden for them.
4. Take the family on a trip, probably to Israel. I’d love to take my husband and kids to the places in Israel that were important to me when I lived there, and I’d love to see how they react to seeing the country. I’d really like to take them to the Coral World Underwater Observatory in Eilat, right on the Red Sea, where the fish watch you as much as you watch the fish.
5. Buy an apartment building and set it up such that our friends who are having trouble affording life in the Boston area can live there rent-free or for significantly below market rate. The Boston area can be very expensive to live in, and we have a number of friends who have moved out of town because they can’t afford to live locally anymore. We’d love to be able to have them back near us, so if us buying a place where they can live and not have to pay as much, that would be wonderful.
6. (Bonus) My musical brain has been saying that the only correct answer to this question comes from the Barenaked Ladies: a house, furniture, a K car, a tree fort, a tiny fridge (with prewrapped sausages), a fur coat (but not a real fur coat), an exotic pet, John Merrick’s remains, a limousine, Kraft Dinner, a green dress (but not a real green dress), some art, and a monkey.
About the Author
E.M. Ben Shaul lives in many communities. An Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, E.M. lives in the simultaneously gay-friendly and Jewish-friendly Boston area with her husband and twin daughters. A technical writer by day and freelance editor by nights and weekends, E.M. likes to knit, cook and coin neologisms. E.M. seeks to explore the seeming conflict between religious teachings and the heart’s desires.
Flying Without a Net will be published by Interlude Press on November 17, 2016. Connect with author E.M. Ben Shaul at embenshaul.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/EMBenShaul and on Twitter at @embenshaul.
Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Hold // Five winners receive Flying Without a Net eBook