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Isaac: A Modern Fable
by Ivan G. Goldman

In the Bible, there is the story of Abraham, the great patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In his most memorable story, he is asked by God to sacrifice is son Isaac; just as he is about to deliver the killing blow, an angel appears and stays his hand. In the process, it seems, the angel inadvertently granted Isaac eternal youth, and he’s been wandering the earth ever since. As centuries have passed, Isaac has gotten used to the solitude of immortality, but his thousands of years can’t prepare him for the passion that overtakes him when he falls in love with beautiful Ruth. Ruth is a talented scholar who once wrote a brilliant paper about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. Isaac, now using the pseudonym Lenny, knows he can’t have a serious relationship with Ruth – serious relationships end in disaster, usually when the woman discovers the nature of his secret – but he can’t ignore her, either, since she has fallen into the clutches of the Beast, Isaac’s nemesis who has been wandering through time with same durability as Isaac. In the form of a wealthy eccentric called Borges, the Beast whisks Ruth away to an academic think tank where she can dedicate her life to research. Isaac is determined to save her, but first he’ll have to overcome his own fears and frailties.

I spent most of this book being either bored or annoyed. It starts out decently enough. Ruth meets Lenny as she escapes a truly terrible first date, and the two hit it off immediately. But the story quickly gets bogged down in Lenny’s waffling. He wants to be with Ruth but he can’t. He wants to run from the Beast, but he also wants to stand up to him. For an immortal that lived through so much history, Lenny isn’t all that interesting. His reflections on the past are brief glimpses, a peek into fogged memories that do little to impress the weight of so many years upon his character. As he admits to himself at one point, he’s been alive all this time and never done anything important, and in all likelihood that isn’t going to change.

If Isaac/Lenny is adrift in time, Ruth too is without roots. Her mother gave her away, and she grew up in foster homes without forming lasting family relationships. As a scholar, we’re told that she’s wonderful and amazing, but I didn’t see much evidence of it in her in-text citations. Never mind. I honestly didn’t care much about her. Even though she’s narrating half of the story, she never felt like a real person, only a locus for the showdown between Isaac and the Beast.

The story tried to build up to this faceoff between the two men, but it takes forever to get there and then the payoff is incredibly weak. The final third of the book is underdeveloped and rushed, and the overall narrative can be quite jumbled and distracting. By the time the author made a cameo in his own book, I was ready to clock out from this ‘modern fable’.

2.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about Isaac , buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie
2010: n/a
2009: Oregon Shakespeare Festival: All's Well That Ends Well
2008: When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale


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