13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2005
Even the world's very first family was seriously dysfunctional, or so argues David Maine in his imaginative, insightful second novel, FALLEN. In Maine's debut novel, 2004's THE PRESERVATIONIST, he focused on the Old Testament story of Noah's flood. Now, with FALLEN, Maine returns to the Book of Genesis from the very beginning, exploring the story of Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, as well as the story of the world's first murder, when Adam and Eve's oldest son Cain killed his brother Abel.
In Maine's novel, Cain is bitter, angry and resentful, yet oddly sympathetic. Cursed to wander about until the end of his days, marked by God with a mark that ostensibly keeps him from harm but actually reveals his true identity (and its accompanying dread) to all he meets, Cain lacks any support beyond his small family.
As Cain's history is revealed, Maine grounds the young man's hatred of his father in larger family dynamics. Abel is the family golden boy, beloved by both God and by his parents. Cain, on the other hand, is despised for his skepticism and for his murder (according to Eve) of his stillborn twin brother in utero. Cain's crime can't be forgiven, perhaps, but Maine makes it possible to understand the circumstances that lead to such a shocking event in human history.
Although FALLEN lacks the multiple voices that enriched THE PRESERVATIONIST, it is no less compelling. What is most impressive is how Maine weaves, from a few short verses in Genesis, a fully fleshed novel that expands on the Biblical narrative while still remaining true to its source. Chances are that many readers will return to the original text after reading Maine's retelling.
The structure of Maine's novel is also inventive; in 40 chapters divided into four parts, Maine tells the story in reverse chronological order, beginning with a middle-aged Cain in exile and ending immediately following Adam and Eve's loss of paradise. Each section begins with the same chapter title as the last chapter in the previous section, and other chapter titles ("The Stranger," "The Conversation," "The Proposal") are repeated throughout, giving the impression of a highly structured poem, like a sonnet. The creativity and elegance of this approach reflect Maine's admirable control of his prose.
The result of this reverse chronological approach is a stunning and surprisingly emotional account of humans' ultimate and inevitable failings. We're reminded of the wider implications of Cain's crime in a disturbing scene where a young boy admits that he, too, committed murder solely because he was inspired by Cain's own actions. FALLEN, and the ideas it inspires, will resonate with all thoughtful readers, regardless of their religious beliefs or affiliations.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2005
While it remains a mystery who arranged the dust into the shape of that first man, after reading Fallen, I am convinced that it is David Maine who has breathed life into him, and all the flesh of his flesh. Weaving backwards, Maine begins with Cain as an aged, dying man and ends with the expulsion from Eden. He does not so much rewrite the stingy narrative but adds to it, writes in between it, swells it, and truly makes the word flesh. With an unparalleled elegance, Maine explores everything that the original author refused to reveal and the mythical characters upon whom Western civilization is based become painfully and wonderfully human. Adam is sincere, inadequate and afraid of rabbits; Abel is exasperating, innocent and bad with numbers; Cain is brooding, clever and tragically sensitive; Eve, with her "red hair spilling crazily across the green moss," Eve is like fire... passionate, exquisite and breathtakingly brave. Traveling backwards, working towards that fateful night, when under the thunder struck sky, Adam knew Eve and Eve knew hunger, Maine tells an incredible story of love, family, and learning to walk after the fall. Much like the mark on Cain's forehead that it opens with, Fallen will brand you forever, burn inside of you, heartbreakingly beautiful and unforgettable.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2005
For a book with its fair share of murderers, rapists, and thieves, there are few characters in the Bible more hated than Cain. Even Eve, providing stiff competition by bearing the brunt of the blame for the expulsion from Eden, at the very least, will always be responsible for introducing mankind to sex. While religious theologians can wax poetic about the evils of notorious characters like Eve, Pontius Pilate and Judas, they have always been silent on the subject of Cain. On that, everyone is in agreement - Cain is the embodiment of evil. It is therefore an enormous feat of any writer to attempt to redraw this much-maligned biblical character as three-dimensional and complex. It is one that David Maine courageously takes on and accomplishes, breathing life into the characters of not only Cain, but also Abel, Adam and Eve. The novel, Fallen, takes us on a heartbreaking journey through the eyes of Cain, Abel, Adam and Eve meandering backwards from the eve of Cain's death to end with their eviction from Eden.
Every character is given the chance to tell their story through each of the four books: Cain is a tortured, lonely man being punished for an act he isn't sure was entirely of his own volition; Abel is a slightly self-righteous, innocent baffled by his death yet ready to forgive; Adam is bewildered and unprepared for his exile out of Eden but is fervently loyal to the God that banished him; and Eve endures the pain of her punishment with grace and provides her husband with the strength to survive through her passion and love.
Fallen is a beautifully written novel that challenges without offending even the most conservative of readers simply by revealing the humanity of these characters. There is no alternative but to sympathize with these familiar individuals that have been thrown into a new, unknown world where they must attempt to forge their own paths with the Almighty lurking in a distance offering cryptic guidance and at times, incomprehensible decisions. As Cain asks in the middle of the story, "Why would God create the perfect place then allow the Devil in it just to trick you?" The humanization of Cain throws into question whether the humans in the novel are all mice in a grand experiment and if their emotions and actions are self-governed or dictated by their Creator.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2006
David Maine is a master of prose, lending archaic stories a stark relevance and realism. In "The Preservationist," he took us into Noah's life and family. In "Fallen," he gives us a peek into the minds and motivations of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and perhaps even God himself.
With deft skill, Maine starts his story from Cain's perspective. As the narrative winds backwards through time to the Fall in the Garden--possibly losing some of its tension, since we know the outcome--we do find deeper insight into the lives of the first family. What modern family doesn't struggle with these same issues: conflict between teens and parents, sibling rivalry, and sins of the fathers (and mothers)? Maine makes these very issues seem pertinent to our own culture; his true magic is his ability to show that the biblical stories still have lessons to teach about our future.
There is one caveat I must mention. Maine chooses an uncertain approach to the root of man's disobedience (one mirrored by prudish leaders in church history), showing that Adam and Eve only experienced physical union after the Fall, as though their awareness of their nakedness is a sexual awareness alone. In fact, the biblical account mentions the "cleaving to one another" and "becoming one flesh" before the Fall, implying that its beauty and transcendence was a divine gift.
That aside, this is a wonderfully told story, full of beauty and rage and humanity. Maine's research and insights are woven throughout the narrative, and I can't wait to see which biblical account he dives into next.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2005
FALLEN by David Maine is interesting on several levels. First, it's very well written. Second, its author dares to be both philosophical and funny. Finally, it's told backwards.
The book tells the biblical story of brothers Cain and Abel. It starts with Cain as an old man, reflecting on the meaning of life, and ends with the fall of his parents in the Garden of Eden. Because Maine takes us through the saga in reverse, his irony and clever humor catch us off guard in the way we think about the stories we know by rote: After Adam tells Abel how God created man, Cain makes sense of it by explaining to Abel that the tale is just a metaphor. Cain also finds fault with Adam's version of the fall of man: "This whole story makes no sense! Why would God create a perfect place and then allow the Devil in it, just to trick you? Why tell you not to do something when He could have just removed the tree, and so avoided the problem completely?" In Cain's world, the demanding, judgmental God does not come across well.
Cain's is an interesting point of view, in that he and his family are "all the people in the world." When he runs into a stranger, he can't figure out "where they come from ... people like us, only not us. I mean not our kin. It's confusing."
The book is about faith and guilt, doubting and accepting. The language is often pretty: "The rainy season comes, bringing with it long gray afternoons and lingering twilight as the sun pokes its fingers through the cloud's spent tatters, filling the landscape with ghostly golden pyramids."
This is a really thought-provoking book. It asks the questions many readers of Genesis have asked: Why did God show disfavor to Cain when Cain worked so hard? Who are Cain and Abel going to marry? And there are not always answers.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2005
Based on the first 4 chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, this story examines what Adam and Eve may have experienced after their expulsion form the Garden of Eden.
This story chronicles their journey from Eden to the East where they eventually settle to raise their family. After being removed from paradise for eating from the Tree of Knowledge at the prompting of the serpent, the couple struggle to survive. They have no provider, no teacher, no help and no clue. They must invent all of the skills required to survive, such as fishing, hunting, agriculture, animal husbandry, etc. Some of Adam's attempts to provide for his wife are comical such as the time he presents her with a mushroom and a frog for supper.
The story is told in chronological reverse order from the completion of the city of Enoch, named after the son of Cain, the first murderer.
On the surface, this is a fast moving east-to-read story. Below that, though, it raises many questions that linger in the Genesis account. Were humans created evil? If not, why was there evil in the Garden? Were they just acting according to their nature when they disobeyed God? Was God unfair to them? Were they set up? Are all humans born evil? Eve and Cain are the more skeptical of the four main characters. The have a harder time handling these questions. They often voice their questions about God and the situation and are quite vocal about their displeasure with the entire scheme of things. Adam and Abel, on the other hand, still see God as the loving provider and desire to please Him though offerings. It is the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice and the rejection of Cain's that pushes Cain to leave the family and eventually slay Abel.
Don't be put off by these questions. This is not a philosophy or theology book. It is a novel. It is easy to read and accurately reflects the scant writings of Genesis while building a logical and interesting speculation of what else happened.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2005
"Fallen", Daivd Maine's newest work of fiction, illuminates the reader with a powerful and in-depth interpretation of the Bible's account of the first family. He thoroughly explores the psychology of the emotions that drove Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, revealing them for what they are, the basis for all humankind. He begins the novel at "the end" and slowly unravels the mysteries behind their motives as each chapter progresses toward "the beginning." This book satisfies the curiosity of anyone who has ever wondered "why" with regards to the story of the first family of dysfunction and the original fall from grace.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2005
More than anything else, the story in Fallen is the story of marriage. Yes, it is traditionally known as The First Marriage, although there is never a ceremony in Genesis, nor is there any implication of one in Fallen -- a gentle, implied reminder that ceremonies are invented by man, not created by God. Adam and Eve, as those of us know who have been married for a long time or perhaps multiple times, present a marital prototype. Love itself, particularly sexual love, is a bewildering thing. And it is not enough. Only through shared experience, hardship, the struggle to survive, and the development of respect and admiration for one another, does a true marriage evolve. And, since we are not God, we are uncomfortable with perfection. That, coupled with the little spark of creativity that comes with being human, can certainly lead to trouble of our own making -- as in the case of Eve.
The plot structure works the way human memory works. You know what I'm talking about: Some incident on a Tuesday morning, triggered by nothing in particular, takes your mind backwards, and you stop working the crossword puzzle in favor of an interior exploration of a chain of events. This happened, and before that, that happened, and before THAT ... and you find yourself re-experiencing childhood traumas, ancient hurts, smug little victories, horrible mistakes, and, sometimes, much, much worse -- as in the case of Cain.
Readers who like the idea of Creation will be intrigued by Fallen because, with no proselytizing, and perhaps unintentionally, the author supports the notion that, if God is God, then God created everything -- lucious food, laughter, love, orgasms, ingenuity, pride, boredom, ingratitude, jealousy, terror, vengeance, and even His own outrage.
Fallen is not a difficult book to read, it IS a difficult book to put down, and impossible to stop mulling over after you read it. Whether or not you live by the Old Testament, you will be struck by the truth in this story -- a story of human weakness and of human tenacity.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2005
David Maine's narration of the story of Cain and Abel in his latest masterpiece, "Fallen", is perhaps as precious as the age-old biblical tale from which he draws inspiration. Once again, Maine revamps the seemingly familiar religious text into an accessible, heart-warming and witty account of two brothers struggling to understand each other. Captured in varying first-hand narratives, Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel offer individual perspectives about the value of love, sin, and one's inherent responsibility to God ultimately shedding a whole new light upon the Garden of Eden and the aftermath that ensues.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book was quite possibly the best biblical fiction book I have read in the past few years. Fallen is the story of Cain and Abel, and alternately, Adam and Eve. The book begins with the ending and cleverly winds it's way back to the beginning, with the body of the story told in shifting time-lines. Maine brilliantly manages to keep the story line comprehensive and lucid. I was very struck by the spare, yet visceral language throughout the book, and the motivations of the characters were portrayed extremely well. I raced ahead to finish the book, all the while trying to slow myself down so there was more to savor. Though the story is familiar to most, the nuances and subtleties that were infused throughout the book made this a one of a kind story, one where even though the outcome is predicted, the road getting there is anything but.
Most know the infamous story of the two brothers, Cain and Abel, but what is portrayed here is so much more. Maine has managed to take small snippets of those famous verses in the Bible and make them delectably consumable, and downright wonderful. Cain is portrayed as a difficult and tractable young man, bordering on heretical. He is forever feeling slighted and wronged, and his attitude only makes things more difficult for himself. It is hard to find sympathy for Cain; he is virtually unlovable, and remains so for the entirety of the novel. It becomes easy to see him follow his path from anger to murder. Even in his exile, he curses and berates God, making him seem all the more recalcitrant and miserable. His reflections upon himself and his inherent differences from his family are captivating, and make him a full and interesting character.
Abel, on the other hand is wonderfully compliant, kind and friendly. Though he tends towards platitudes and bossiness, the goodness in him shines through. Abel, his mother's favored child, strives for peace in the family, and is usually the one to try and persuade Cain to abandon his fits of pique. He is loving and forgiving, and he is truly humble to the Lord. He is constantly trying to find his brother's heart and make him see reason. It is clear to see that Abel is light to Cain's darkness. The insight gained regarding Abel's unselfish love for his brother make Cain's act all the more incomprehensible. Though Abel is more of a simple man, his devotion to his family and his God are very moving.
As the story moves forward, the focus is on Adam and Eve and their flight to safety after being banished from the Garden of Eden. It is a sorrowful trek that visits many misfortunes and hardships upon the two. Everything that could possibly go wrong for them does so from the beginning. Adam's staunch belief in the Lord pulls him through the struggles, and makes him accepting of any travail that comes their way. Eve is not always so emotionally compliant. There are scenes in which she doubts the intentions and safeguarding of God, and in these moments, Maine has cleverly elaborated on what can only be speculated upon. The awareness of the characters was also a great touch. These fictional characters see themselves as we would see ourselves today, their hopes, fears and dreams are fully realized within the story, and the effect is that all the characters are living, breathing and thinking entities who can be understood and appreciated.
At the close of the book, the story has finally come around to the beginning. God has banished the couple from paradise for their sin, and they are left wondering how and where they will survive. The fear they feel is perceptible, and their reactions to it recognizable. This story has been heard countless times before, yet what is different this time around is the cognizance of the sinners. It is so much clearer to imagine, in this novel, who and what Adam and Eve were like, and what they were thinking. By making them so human, the author has made them so much more plausible and believable. One can imagine feeling the same way today if one were faced with these overwhelming situations. The dialogue was also very solid. Both the children and the parents contemporized and tended towards philosophical understanding.
Another lovely touch was the depictions of the world around the characters. It was easy to see the hardship once the barren and wasted landscape was described. The deserts felt hot, the river felt cool. The effect was masterful, as the panorama wasn't excessively described. It was hinted at, and sparingly related, yet so much more revealing than if countless pages of scenery had been described. It was also interesting to see deftness of the period detail.
This was a wonderful book. It had so many multi-layered parts that came together seamlessly and satisfyingly. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Biblical fiction, or anyone who would just like to read a good story. This book is one of three books of biblical fiction by the same author. I will most definitely be reading the others.