Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adam & Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund

Synopsis From Back Cover:

By decoding light from space, Lucy Bergmann's astrophysicist husband discovers the existence of extraterrestrial life; their friend, anthropologist Pierre Saad, unearths from the sands of Egypt an ancient alternative version of the book of Genesis.  To religious fanatics, these discoveries have the power to rock the foundations of their faith.  Entrusted to deliver this revolutionary news to both the scientific and religious communities, Lucy becomes the target of Perpetuity, a secret society.  When her small plane crashes, Lucy finds herself in a place called Eden with an American soldier named Adam, whose quest for both spiritual and carnal knowledge has driven him to madness.

I have started, deleted, started again, and deleted again more times than I think you really want to know or I am willing to admit to.  I have even wasted an hour on Facebook, avoiding this review.  For some reason I'm having a damned hard time reviewing this one and after about 2 hours of this, I think I know the answer why.  I loved the first 2/3 of the book, the last 1/3, I could really do without.  My problem is that last 1/3 is tainting my whole view of the book.

I loved the way the characters are introduced, especially  Lucy and Adam.  Lucy is happily married art therapist, who get to travel the world with her husband as he attends conferences.  After his tragic death, by a falling piano, her world is turned upside down for a bit.  A year later, when she is attending a conference in Cairo, being held to honor her deceased husband, she is still consumed by grief.  When her plane crashes into a sea, she climbs out, shedding her burning clothing as she goes.  By the time she reaches land, she is naked, hurt and searching for the naked man she saw as her plane was going down.

We first meet Adam after he has been abandoned by his captors who have stripped, raped, and beaten him repeatedly.  He is mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically broken.  Because of the setting he wakes up in, he thinks he is the Adam of the Bible and has been personally created by the hand of God.  He has decided living in a religious haze is better than dealing with the truth.  It doesn't help that he was already traumatized by the war itself.  Once Lucy joins him, he thinks God has finally sent him his Eve.

When these two characters come together I loved it.  Their interactions are fascinating to read and their story is told in a wonderfully quirky way that I find compelling.  Even when another American soldier joins them in Eden, I love the way all three of them work together.  There is a wonderfully drawn out examination of the themes behind the original Adam & Eve, but it's not done in a literal manner.  Everything is done in metaphor and comparison, and all of it in such a subtle manner that you could just choose to ignore it all and enjoy the story for itself.

It's when Lucy and Adam are taken out of that setting that I started to not appreciate what it was I was reading.  Out of that context, I found the religious explorations to be a little too heavy handed and not all that interesting.  There was no longer a smoothness about the story that I had been enjoying and the themes felt a little too forced at times and a bit boring on top of it.  I don't think it helped that the bad guys were one dimensional and took away from the story. I would have either liked a bigger, meaner villain or no villains at all.

If I was forced to give an answer to the question of whether or not I liked the overall story, I would have to say yes.  But it would be a hesitant yes, that could just as easily been a no.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other opinions on this one.


Blodeuedd said...

Sounds heavy and sad and I just do not think it would be the story for me

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I won this book from Library Thing early reviewers and I still haven't read it. Bad me! I really had no idea that it was about what you described. I'm intrigued and I'm wondering how I will feel about it. I guess we shall see. Excellent review, Ryan!

bermudaonion said...

Since the ending is the last part of the book we experience, it's generally the part of the book that stays with us the most. I'll have to think about this book - I didn't know it had such religious overtones.

Yvette said...

Excellent review, Ryan. I love an honest review. I love that you deliberated about what to write and weren't sure how to go about it. You really thought about what to say.

Though this doesn't sound like my kind of book, I still liked reading your review. (Well, that should come as no big surprise.) :)

Carol N Wong said...

I really like that you expressed how difficult the review was. I tried to read a book and hated it, only got 8 pages in. Couldn't stand it. It doesn't make sense and is confusing. Since all but one person loved it, I put it away for a little bit. If I still don't like it. I give up. Will have to write the review as the way I see it.


Anonymous said...

You wrote a very eloquent review despite your difficulty, Ryan. Glad you liked this novel. I had mixed feelings about it.

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Oh wow. Sounds like you were really divided on what to do with this review. Sorry to hear that it was so hard for you. Thanks for sharing it though. :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. This is the next (maybe next +1 ) book I'm reading since I'm on the tour as well.

I also have difficult time writing my thoughts about books I'm split on.


nomadreader said...

I've been on the fence about this one, and your review certainly has me firmly staying on the fence. It sounds like if I read it, it would be worth it but still disappointing. I'll keep pondering this one...

Anonymous said...

Darn, I'm sorry that the last part of the book didn't work for you, especially since the first parts were so good.

Thanks for being on the tour Ryan.

Ceri said...

What a shame that last part didn't really work for you because it really does sound like an interesting story and the parallels between these characters and the Bible are fascinating.

Even though you said you struggled to write it at first, I loved your reivew, Ry.