By: Sena Jeter Naslund
Reviewed by: Julia Oliver
William Morrow, 2010
$26.99, Hardcover; $20.99, eBook
It should not come as a surprise to anyone who’s read Ahab’s Wife, Four Spirits, and Abundance that Alabama native Sena Jeter Naslund has produced another powerful, full-of-grace literary epic. As the title implies, this novel has its roots in the biblical Book of Genesis, which most readers will know is taken literally by conservative religious groups, and is assumed to be apocryphal by others. The opposing credos of evolution and creationism are also a major theme in Adam & Eve.
Although much of the content refers to antiquity, the main time frame begins in 2015 and goes to the year 2020. Cosmopolitan, brilliant Lucy Bergman, whose first name means "light," shares most of the spotlight with Adam, a delusional former soldier who finds himself shifting between that incarnation and being the first male inhabitant of the planet Earth. Whether or not this resourceful man is real or metaphorical is one of the puzzles that will be worked out as the intensity steadily builds to thriller level. Other major characters include anthropologist Pierre Saad, who asks Lucy to smuggle an ancient document out of Egypt which will challenge the accepted traditions of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions.
Lucy’s husband, Thom Bergman, a renowned astrophysicist, has given her for safekeeping his computer flash drive, which contains his secret discovery of extraterrestrial life. She wears it in a titanium container on a cord around her neck. On page one of Chapter One, Part One—the three Parts have a total of thirty-seven titled chapters and an Epilogue—a piano falls from the sky and crushes Thom to death on a street in Amsterdam. Accident, or murder? As the storyline and the geography become intricately interwoven, elements of menace, pathos, romance, and philosophy are kept in balance. The author has included a charming sidebar about Alabama artist Nall’s design for a French manufacturer of fine china. This is not intended to be a spoiler alert: The denouement ties up all loose threads and leads to a really satisfying surprise ending. Sept. 2010
Julia Oliver’s interview with Sena Jeter Naslund in the Spring 2001 issue of First Draft is accessible via the magazine’s archives on the Writers’ Forum Web site at www.writersforum.org/firstdraft.