The Garden by Elsie V. Aidinoff
From booklist –
One of the world’s oldest stories becomes new again in the hands of a 70-year-old first-time novelist. The setting is a lush, freshly formed Garden of Eden, where Eve is just awakening to the all-wise, feathered Serpent who is her guardian. Nearby, Adam is being raised by a cranky, white-bearded God intent on seeing that His creations adhere to His vision. But the Serpent has something far different in mind for its charge, and under the Serpent’s painstaking tutelage, Eve begins to think and to question. Journeys with the Serpent outside the garden give Eve a breadth and depth of knowledge forbidden to Adam, who learns to fear a god who is both capricious and demanding.
Despite the Serpent’s strenuous objections, God insists that Adam and Eve mate, and the event turns into a rape, for which Eve is loath to forgive either God or Adam. Only later, when the Serpent changes form, becomes a man, and makes love to Eve, is she prepared to accept her central role as the mother of humankind. Even then, however, she’s still not ready to forgo her independence. Although the Serpent explains all the hardship that will come to her if she eats the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, she accepts the challenge to become a fully realized human, as does Adam, who, though lacking Eve’s strength, also yearns to be his own person.
My thoughts –
This book was very interesting to me. Aidinoff took the story of Adam and Eve and completely turned it on its head. In this version, Eve is the protagonist and we see how the events may have played out if it were Eve who wrote the Bible. In Aidinoff’s story, Eve, who is creative, smart, and questions absolutely everything, is raised by the Serpant, who instead of the Devil, is actually the voice of reason, conscience, logic, and a wonderful teacher and friend to Eve. God, on the other hand, is extremely pretentious, full of himself, requires absolute obedience and adoration, and is pretty terrifying to both Eve and Adam. Last, we have Adam, who is depicted as a simple pawn in God’s grand plan, lazy and not too intelligent, a dreamer who simply goes along with whatever God tells him to do (including raping Eve). In this story, the Serpent spends most of its time teaching Eve about why she is in the Garden, what her role is in the world, and about what is outside the Garden’s boundaries. He even takes her exploring outside so she can see for herself just what is out there should she ever venture out on her own time (even though God does not ever plan on her leaving). And when the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil appears in the Garden, it is the Serpent who carefully explains to Adam and Eve exactly what will happen to them if they eat an apple from it. Ultimately, both Adam and Eve decide that they crave the independence and freedom that will result from eating the apple. None of them imagine the crushing punishments God ultimately inflicts upon them for having eaten the apple (you know the whole pain in childbirth, difficult life, shame, women are subordinate to their husbands stuff). Although Adam and Eve both considered the pros and cons to eating the apple and gaining the freedom they so desired, as written in the Bible, Eve is blamed for having coerced Adam into doing it, and the Serpent is blamed for having coerced Eve (thus, God turning him into the Devil), and they are all banished from the Garden forever.
I actually did enjoy this book. I just found it so interesting to think of this whole entire story in such a different way. Of course, nobody will ever know what really happened in the Garden of Eden, but it was definitely fun to think of things from a different perspective than what is in the Bible. I loved how the story was told from Eve’s perspective, and how she defied the expectations held for her, had a mind of her own, and ultimately chose to be punished so that for the rest of time, people would be able to have free will. In the author notes in the back, Aidinoff claims that this is not a feminist book, but I think she’s kind of in denial about that. This is a radical book, especially to those of us that (well in my case, somewhat roughly) believe in the Bible and God’s word and all of that. It is a huge feminist statement to say that perhaps things didn’t go quite as stated in Genesis and perhaps Eve isn’t the horrible sinner she was made out to be, especially in this patriarchical society that we live in, and especially for Christianity, which is even more centered in patriarchy than the general culture.
I can’t say that I loved the writing style, I got bored at times, and I do think the book was a little lengthy for its content (400 pages). But I still am a big fan, and I’d recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different to read.