Monday, March 23, 2009

eve, by elissa elliott

my earliest bible story memories involve adam, eve, and the garden of eden. i would venture to guess that it's this way for all of us, no matter where our spiritual journey has taken us. growing up, i remember the story going something like this: 

"God made adam, and then he got lonely. so God made eve from adam's rib. all was well, until one day, the serpent (or the devil, as he was called where i learned the story) came to eve and tempted her to eat the apple of the tree of knowledge. she ate, and then she got adam to eat the apple too. then they were both ashamed, and they hid from God. when God realized what they had done, he banished them forever from the garden."

the historical novel eve by elissa elliott digs deeply into this basic story, and elliott imagines (very vividly and realistically) what it must have been like for adam and eve once they were banished from the garden and as they set out to make a new life in a foreign land. of course, as the title suggests, eve's voice is primary. in addition, we are privileged to hear the story from the point of view of 3 of her daughters as well.

i think a primary struggle i have had as a grown woman with the traditional account of what happened in the garden is that eve was blamed as being primarily at fault for the entire thing. after all, it was SHE to whom the serpent came, and it was SHE who made the decision to eat of the forbidden fruit, and it was SHE who shared the fruit then with adam.

i'm sure many, many thesis papers have been written about how this plays into male/female roles in our modern society, but i don't pretend to have studied the ins and outs and will not try to address any of that here.

i will say, however, that i think elliott explores this tension extremely well in the novel. she demonstrates the agony eve must have felt, the responsibility, the worry, the guilt, the sadness, the guilt, the torment, the guilt (did i say GUILT?) for making such a poor decision. and we are left wondering, if it were up to adam, would he have chosen the same? probably. after all, as we say, it's human nature, isn't it?

elliott explores what it might have been like for adam and eve and their children living in a strange place, with other people living nearby. now, i was taught that all people came from adam and eve, and frankly, i could never figure this out. (by the way, you don't have to comment and try to convince me how...) so a good part of her story involves this first family's dealings with what are described as gypsies living not too far away.

if you trust me, you will get this book somehow (borrow, check out, buy) and read i am a very picky reader. i have to be: i read (boring) books for a living, plus i have a full house to care for, so i don't have much (read: ANY) time for reading books i actually want to read. to be honest, i read this one only because someone mailed it to me in january and asked me to write a review (which, my apologies to the author, is now 2 months late!).

but the minute i started reading it, i really couldn't put it down. i would have fed my kids cereal every night for a week just to keep reading this (i think i did this a couple of nights...). and what's so great to me (because i love this literary device) is that we get to hear FOUR women's voices in this novel, not just one.

the highlight to me, more than the actual story, more than the multiple narration, is the WAY elliott writes. most prose in novels (especially ones having to do with anything biblical) is bland at best. the story might be good, but the words, the phrases, the sentences aren't really what i would call enjoyable to read.

elliott's writing, though, is tasty. it's delightful. i drank in every word, i was in awe at entire paragraphs. i kept wanting to write things down, just to keep them in a journal to reread later, for the sheer joy of it. 

i could give you passage after passage here, but i know you are going to read the book, so this is just one of my favorites:

Since I am trying to uncover the truth of what went on that day, I will relate one more thing. In the midst of Adam's betrayal, he had paused to think of me. He had acquired some beautiful trinkets that he believed would restore us back to the way we were. How do I begin to understand this conundrum? On the one hand, he had disregarded my feelings. On the other, he thought he knew what was better for me and took it upon himself to do a lovely thing for me. How do you rage against something so confusing? I know, in my head, what he was trying to do, but my heart says otherwise. My heart is angered when he assumes he knows me better than I know myself--and acts on it. Always, he makes these judgments, and I cannot say anything. If I do, I am ungrateful for his efforts; if I don't, I am bitter against him.
As I have laid it out for you, I was loved and cherished, and I refused to see it, or foster it, for that matter. That would come later.

one thing i really appreciated about this book is that it made me think about my own relationships--with my spouse, my children, and with God. and i don't think that was elliott's intention--after all, this is just a historical fictional account of what might have gone on between adam and eve and their children after being forced to leave the Garden of Eden. but there is so much to be gleaned between the lines of this novel about relationships in general, whether you are a daughter, wife, mother, or all three.


Anonymous said...

Twain also wrote on this subject, The Diaries of Adam and Eve. I read it years ago and all I can remember is that I liked it. If you like Twain, check it out.

kristi said...

anonymous--i do love mark twain, and i will have to check that book out. thanks for the rec. and thanks for reading my blog! :)

krystal said...

I have this book at home from the libary, per your recommendation, but it had drifted to the bottom of the pile. I will certainly more it back up to the top again. :)