Cunningham (The Return of the Goddess, 1992—not reviewed) offers a contemporary feminist fairy tale in which Lilith—far from being the evil, demonized child-stealer of the Judeo-Christian tradition—proves to be the archetypal Wild Mother without whose influence the modern-day family of Adam and Eva cannot be truly human or happy. An immortal race of women, all direct descendants of Lilith— by tradition, the biblical Eve's successor and Adam's first rebellious wife—lives in wild communion with nature in the uncharted Empty Land. The modern Adam, a charismatic professor of alchemy and magic, once ventured into their realm, captured himself a Lilith-wife and brought her back to modern civilization, where, before escaping, she gave birth to a daughter, Ionia, and—unheard of for one of her race—a son. When the novel opens, the children's thoroughly domesticated human grandmother (``Grammar''—who ``had not a very high opinion of nature and considered herself at war with it,'' feeling that ``nature ought to at least obey its own laws if it would not obey hers'') runs the household; Adam exploits his devoted colleague Eva while pursuing intellectual projects, advancing his coldly calculating male ambitions and scheming to trap his erstwhile wife, the unvanquished, essentially unknowable Lilith. Since Lilith has always wanted to reclaim her daughter, the ten-year-old Ionia becomes Adam's bait—leading to Lilith's captivity, Ionia's having to choose between being wild or human, and transformative experiences for one and all. Cunningham is not just jumping on the bandwagon to run with wolves; here, she gracefully blends the mythical and magical with the humane.
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