A thought-provoking account of man’s fall from grace.
In illuminating the story of Genesis (his 2004 novel ,The Preservationist, concerned Noah and the Ark), Maine re-imagines the first family, from Adam and Eve’s expulsion to the murder of Abel, offering an intimate portrait of a damaged, all-too-human clan. Told in reverse chronology, beginning with the death of Cain, the novel inches backward, each movement unveiling those wounding moments and fatal flaws that can lead to disobedience and murder. As the world’s first murderer, Cain spends years wandering, shunned and stoned, bearing the mark of his crime and also protected by it, until he finds a wife and has a son, and then, ironically, becomes the first architect and builder of a great city. As a young man, Cain is clever and moody, a diligent worker, but also dangerously questioning, and as with all natural rebels, a thorn in the side of authority. So unlike mild-mannered Abel, full of mediocre advice and mindless acquiescence (even Adam sees Cain as the more noteworthy man), Cain seems predestined to murder (Eve expects no less from her child, whom she suspects killed his twin in utero). Though the tragedy of the two brothers, and the repercussions in a world in which murder can now exist (Cain disturbingly happens upon a young boy who has followed his murderous example) is good drama, the story’s winning moments are in examining the novelty of being the first of your kind, of having to literally discover everything in the world. Eve copies a spider’s web for a fishing net, and Adam brings home fire from a lightning strike—and both are tormented that any of this has to be invented at all, because life was perfect in the Garden.
At once witty and poignant, Maine captures the frail humanity of the world’s first family.