by David Maine
The story of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their children…told backwards. It begins with Cain, an old man with children of his own, talking to the ghost of his long-dead brother, Abel, and slowly, chapter by chapter, works back through Genesis until we reach the fall, when Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden. It’s an unusual – but creative – approach to a well-known story.
It’s weird, reading a book that moves backwards in time. I can’t think of another novel I’ve read that does. I’ve read books that jump back and forth between time periods, from the present to the past and vice versa. There’s a fair amount of repetition. A character will reflect on a distant memory, and a few chapters later he’ll live out that memory. Each chapter has the voice of a single character, but the timeline itself will overlap, so you’ll get the same scenes through different eyes. At times I’d think, “Didn’t I read this already?” At times it worked to heighten the drama. When you’ve already read Cain’s grim reflections on Abel’s murder, after the fact, it makes Cain’s thoughts in the minutes leading up to his death all the more interesting. But you’re also watching the unraveling of character development, with characters growing more ignorant and simple as the end approaches. It makes for an unsatisfying ending.
I thought it interesting how the book didn’t address some of the little Biblical oddities that pop up in the Genesis creation stories. For example, where did the other people come from, like Cain’s wife? The Bible doesn’t really say, and well, neither does David Maine. One day, another man just shows up in Adam’s territory.
It’s nice to see the personalities of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel fleshed out. Cain becomes the surly, resentful son whose curiosity leads him to ask questions that border on heretical. Abel is his brother’s opposite, preachy and nagging but with the best intentions. Some of the struggles the family encounter are pretty comical: right after his expulsion from the garden, Adam’s trying to hunt a rabbit, but he’s terrified of it. After all, rabbits have those big sharp teeth. It could probably kill him!
It’s a good book, definitely a different perspective of the first several chapters of Genesis. It’s well worth reading.
I listened to the audio book, which had a very nice narrator. A good narrator always helps.
4 out of 5 stars