Elsie V. Aidinoff Garden

ISBN 13: 9780099484073

Garden

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9780099484073: Garden

When the book opens, Eve, who is the narrator, is just coming into consciousness. She has been given by God to the Serpent to raise. Her sense of wonder as the Serpent introduces her to life in Paradise is a strength of the book; she learns about nature, love and the way that the new and fascinating world works. When she comes into contact with God - who rears Adam - she is wary of his dominance and egotism. One day, becoming impatient to discover whether or not he's designed the male and female to procreate properly, God rushes Adam and Eve into intercourse. The Serpent alone recognizes the consequences of God's act. 'Until today Eve has felt...that the world was good...' but 'Adam as good as raped her.' Eve is devastated by the experience. Eve leaves the Garden to gain some distance from God and to discover what exists in the outside world; the Serpent accompanies her. They make several journeys - one to a volcano, one to a desert, one to a mountain range and one to the sea (where Eve swims out to sea against the instructions of the Serpent and nearly drowns). On their return to the Garden, the roots of the apple tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil begin to grow; the Serpent sensing that time is running out to teach Eve that love making is good, changes into a man and makes love to her with great sensitivity. After this, she is prepared to accept her role as the mother of humankind. God is outraged by Eve's and also Adam's interest in the tree of knowledge. He is at his capricious worst: everything must bow to his wishes. They realise that if they are to have any freedom of will, they must leave God and the garden. The Serpent warns them that this will involve future suffering, but Eve feels she must develop and be her own person. They go forth...

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About the Author:

Elsie Aidinoff has lived in Paris, Brussels, Hong Kong, London and New York where she has worked since 1980 in a Children's Storefront School in Harlem. She is married to a lawyer and has four grown-up children.

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.

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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