From School Library Journal
Grade 11 Up–A revision of the Fall as written in Genesis, The Garden
is told from the perspective of Eve, a quizzical woman who questions everything from her own "birth" to God's authority. Aloof and careless, Adam is the more physical of the two; he enjoys the paradise of Eden, running with the antelope each day, never paying attention to the lessons that his didactic God has to offer. The two other characters in the novel are God, an authoritarian who views his children as toys, and the Serpent, his close friend and Eve's kind and understanding mentor. By writing from Eve's point of view, Aidinoff proffers an alternate perspective on an old story, but, unfortunately, the book ends up reinforcing old ideas, that women are more "emotional" and men more "physical." In the climax of the story, God impulsively, in an effort to see the fruits of his creativity and labor, forces Adam upon Eve. This rape leads Eve to distrust God and eventually–with the Serpent's help–leave the Garden. The Genesis story has incredible revisionist possibilities, but the characters here are flat and uninteresting, and the simplistic dialogue is not compelling. Ultimately, the author's effort to retell the "Fall" in a fresh way frankly falls, and fails to do just that.–Kelly Berner Richards, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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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.
In an author's note, Aidinoff explains that she has drawn on lore that equates the Serpent to Wisdom, who is said to have been with God at the creation, and the smart, empathetic, even romantic Serpent will evoke the most response from teenagers (God is certainly one-dimensional by comparison). The story at times is overly descriptive. It is at its best during the dialogues between Eve and the Serpent, when age-old questions are asked and real answers are given--although not necessarily the answers that have been accepted for ages. For instance, when the Serpent asks Eve what she thinks of the songs of praise God has taught her and Adam, Eve wonders, "Why does God need to be adored all the time? We know he made the sea and the dry land and all the rest. Why does he have to hear it over and over again?" There's no doubt this book will upset some people, both in its depiction of God and because of its sexual scenes, which, though not salacious, are intense and uncompromising. Perhaps most disturbing is the scene in which God urges Adam to take Eve against her will. Some readers, however, will find the book liberating--a meditation on the role of humanity in the world and on the compromises people make when they choose freedom instead of obedience. Ilene Cooper
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