A chance encounter at a coffee bar in Tel Aviv rescues two lost souls from the abyss in Evan Fallenberg's (Light Fell) carefully crafted When We Danced on Water. Teo, 85, is hardened and domineering, an influential choreographer whose life is riddled with sadness and sorrow. Vivi, a 40-something waitress with latent, "interdisciplinary" artistic talent, is completely stalled in her life and her work. The nature of art is what brings these lonely, disillusioned souls together; it is also what will tear them apart. When their paths cross, a transformation is sparked in each of their lives--but not before they are forced to resurrect the past and face down long-repressed demons.
As Vivi and Teo slowly start to form a friendship, the reader is drawn into their stories from the past. Teo was a dancer with great promise who forfeited love to pursue his career, only to have it stolen in wartime by a Nazi brute, while Vivi, an Israeli soldier, forsook her family and the traditions of her Jewish faith for a lover who would later betray her.
The sensitivity that Fallenberg brings to the sections about Teo's life as a dancer in the Danish Royal Ballet, in the wings and on stage, is passionately evocative--as are the terrifying scenes of his captivity during the war. In the end, it is Teo's story that takes center stage and ratchets up the dramatic tension--past and present--for both Vivi and Teo, until the plot unravels into a surprising conclusion of forgiveness and rebirth. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines