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Book Review: Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund

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Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund is a fictional book which tries to tackle the evolution/creationism debate through its characters and via the storyline. The book encompasses a love story, thriller and mystery in short space.

Lucy Bergmann watched her husband die in, what she thought, was a freak accident. He has entrusted Lucy with his life’s work on, appropriately enough, a memory drive (thumb drive, flash drive) proof of extraterrestrial life. She wears the drive around her neck.

The Bergmanns’ friend, Pierre Saad, discovers a new version of the biblical book “Genesis.” Together with the proof of extraterrestrial life these discoveries threaten Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which makes both Lucy and Pierre targets. When Lucy’s plane crushes, she finds herself in the Garden of Eden with an American solider named Adam who believes she is his Eve.

Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund is a story about beginnings, reinventing oneself, and is full of metaphors about the genesis and Genesis. Clearly, we’ve taken things literally and out of context when it comes to religion, and just as well it is easy to do so with this book.

The writing reminded me of the way the bible is written; it is lyrical with beautiful prose and well written. The Hebrew bible is not full of “thy” and “thou” but is written in simple language, poetic and to a measured beat. I have no idea why the translators chose to translate in a high brow manner and even change some of the meanings — but that’s a different discussion.

I did enjoy the book, but I think it would be better enjoyed with multiple readings, as getting accustomed to the writing style took me a while. I was almost a quarter way through the book before I got used to it and about half way through before I realized that the book is trying to tell an allegorical story. This is when I gave the plot holes, some huge, a pass.

Actually, the story becomes less interesting when the author leaves the denotative approach and becomes literal. However, to her credit it must be said that the theme of “Genesis,” in terms of adapting, surviving, and reinventing, is always present.

The theme that “genesis” isn’t in origin, but as an event that begins something, is a premise that I can identify with and spoke to me throughout the book. I have lived in several countries and in many cultures: rural, city, suburban and even in a collective for a large part of my life. Each time it was the end of one thing and the beginning of other. Each one was difficult, but frankly I feel sorry for those who born and die within a five mile radius and never experience anything different. This is especially sad in the United States where young people rarely travel and older ones refuse to experience new cultures even if it means just crossing the city/state line.

When I finished the book and started writing my thoughts a song which I liked by famous poet Naomi Shemer rang throughout my head. The song is about new beginnings and uses the word “genesis” or “bereshit” to signify that we can view each and every morning as a new commencement.

Below are the translated lyrics:

The Party’s Over
And sometimes
the party is over
The lights go out, the trumpet says
goodbye to the violins.
The last watch kisses the third,
to wake up tomorrow morning
and start from the beginning

To wake up tomorrow morning
with a new song in our hearts
to sing it with strength,
to sing it with pain.
To hear the flutes in the free breeze
and to start — from the beginning.

From the beginning,
recreate your world in the morning
the earth, the plants and all the lights
and then from dust, in the likeness of humans
wake up tomorrow morning
and start from the beginning.

Even for you
the celebration is over,
and at midnight
the road home
is hard for you to find.
From the darkness we ask —
to wake up tomorrow morning
and start from the beginning.

Adam and Eve is one of those books which I liked more after I finished reading it and thought a bit about the storyline and message.

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