Book Review Time
On more than one occasion I have grumbled about the quality of some Christian fiction. But I am happy to share a jewel I found. Thanks to my friend Dana for recommending it to me!
I read Paradise Lost in a college literature class many years ago, but I still remember how it wrenched my heart. Milton’s portrayal of the perfection of Adam and Eve’s Garden of Eden made me long to to go there, and his description of how they lost it all through one rash choice made me weep.
Tosca Lee’s Havah: the story of Eve is a modern version of the same story, and I loved it too. I loved getting the chance to imagine along with Lee what happened between the verses of Genesis. She puts flesh on the few enigmatic bits of information we are given, and her extrapolations ring true.
I wish that she had developed the description of Eden more, especially God’s communion with Adam and Eve. This would have made the contrast to life after the Fall all the more horrifying. But what she does give us is wonderful and beautifully poetic and mysterious. In the opening pages of the book, Eve recounts her first moments of life. God has just filled her lungs with his divine breath and she sees Adam for the first time:
Wake! [God tells her]
I opened my eyes upon the milling blue, saw it spliced by the flight of a bird, chevron in the sky.
This time, the voice came not in my ear, but directly to my stirring mind: Wake!
There was amusement in it.[I love this!]
I knew nothing of where or what I was, did not understand the polyphony around me or the wide expanse like a blue eternity before me.
But I woke and knew that I was alive…
The face disappeared and returned, blinking into my own, the blue above captured in twin pools. Then, like a gush of water from a rock, gladness thrilled my heart. But its source was not me.
“At last!” … He thumped his chest and shouted to the sun and clapped his hands. “At last!” … Though I did not understand the utterance, I knew its meaning at once: joy and exultation at something longed for suddenly found.
In Lee’s version the days of creation are not a literal seven. But neither are Adam and Eve a pair of grunting cavemen in need a few millennia of evolution. They are glowing and perfect, fresh from the Creator’s hand, healthy and complete in ways I can only imagine. Eve is filled with joy in herself, in Adam, and in her Creator.
On one lovely occasion, she runs on strong legs, just for the sheer happiness of it. And as she does, she senses the presence of “The One,” at her side, laughing in pleasure at the way she is enjoying his creation.
Each moment of every day brings new things to learn and explore and do in the Garden with Adam in perfect harmony and understanding. Their love for each other is complete and unselfish. Their senses are are finely tuned so that they can communicate even without words.
And then they sin and everything changes.
When Eve awakes the day after the Fall she thinks at first her ears are plugged:
Suddenly I realized: the symphony—that blended chorus of all living things that had been with me since the day of my creation—was gone, replaced by a dull drone.
It came then like a squall in a white-hot flush of silent fear and dread: We had done the thing we were not to do.…
I hid my face against [Adam’s] shoulder, but he did not clasp me.…
Oh, God, what have we done?
Later, when God comes looking for them, Adam throws her under the bus with his hurtful, blaming words, “the woman you gave me…”
For the rest of their lives, and they have over 900 years to think about what they have done, they never can completely forgive each other. And their distrust and misunderstanding make for a dysfunctional family—the first of untold millions of them. And Eve comes to realize that it was their sin—the original one and the ones that followed—that led inevitably to Cain’s murder of Abel. And thus, all their hopes are dashed that Cain would be the one God had promised to crush the serpent, allowing them back into the Garden.
Lee creates believable three-dimensional characters. But I was surprised at how sympathetically she painted Cain, leaving out his callous words, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And there is only a hint of a distinction between Cain’s line and the godly line of Seth that would lead to the One who would indeed destroy the serpent. I haven’t read the reviews, but no doubt theologians have already picked apart her work for this or other reasons.
No, Havah is not a theological treatise. But it does—as all Christian fiction should—tell the truth about the nature of God and mankind. And it did cause me to think, cause me to glorify God, and cause me to re-read the biblical account of Creation.
Lee made Adam and Eve so real to me that this morning in church I suddenly thought how overjoyed they would have been to live long enough to meet the Second Adam, the Lamb we worship as our Redeemer. But silly me, when they awakened in Heaven they did meet Him. And I can’t wait to meet them.It would be so nice of you to share!