Dueling deities, and a first family distressingly familiar in its dysfunction, enliven newcomer Elliott’s highly original look at Original Sin.
Eve and Adam are happily ensconced in the Garden, despite occasional spats about who came first. But after Eve, with Adam’s passive-aggressive collaboration, takes sexy Lucifer’s cue to nosh on forbidden fruit, God—Elohim—reluctantly ejects them. Years later, after much hardship, Eve and Adam have founded a thriving compound, complete with courtyard, dates, figs, grapes, beer, bread and flocks of sheep and goats. Their children—Eve and her daughters narrate—each have a role: Abel herds animals, Cain farms, lovely daughter Naava spins and weaves, youngest daughter Dara molds clay, etc. Although Adam tries to perpetuate the worship of Elohim, Cain venerates the gods of a neighboring city, particularly Inanna, a Sumerian mother/fertility goddess. (Elliott’s avowedly fanciful world conflates the Bronze Age and the late Stone Age.) Nubile Naava has seduced Cain and cajoled him into introducing her to this teeming primordial metropolis of temples, marketplaces and kohl-lidded women sporting tattoos, piercings and hennaed hair. Resentful that Dara babysits for the harem of the city’s prince, Naava sets her sights on the prince himself—a young man as sultry and beguiling as the persona Lucifer adopted to co-opt Eve. When Naava, costumed as Inanna, marries the prince, Cain, enraged, foments a riot and Eve’s family must flee the city. But strife follows them home as Cain and Abel’s lifelong sibling rivalry ends in murder. Exotic setting aside, this could be any contemporary family plagued by a manic-depressive son, a sulky teenager and a father who is shockingly deficient in the wisdom expected of a First Progenitor. Perennially pregnant, Eve can’t do much except whine inwardly about her past errors and the family’s present turmoil.
An imaginative and deeply felt debut in which the First Parents’ flaws make us wonder why they ever thought they had a snowball’s chance in Eden.