A work of historical fiction that reimagines the biblical story of Cain and Abel from the perspective of Cain’s wife, Akliah.
Banished from the Garden of Eden, the family of Adam and Eve place their hopes for eventual return in Cain, who’s prophesied to kill the Serpent responsible for their exile. However, Cain dithers and becomes increasingly irreverent toward the family and their God. Still, his younger sister, Akliah, pines to become his wife, and when she learns that her older sister, Luluwa, has been promised to him by Adam, she conspires to take her place. Cain is seduced by Lilith, a beautiful ally of the Serpent who convinces him that God is a lying despot. Cain refuses to crush the Serpent and instead intends to populate the Earth with children by both Luluwa and Lilith. After he kills his brother, Abel, he heads east of Eden with Akliah and attempts to establish a new city at Nod to rival the Garden. God marks Cain so that no man can kill him and curses the land so it won’t yield food, which only makes Cain more defiant. Akliah is impregnated by Cain and learns of another family—the descendants of Eli. She falls for Eli’s son, Gabril, but is ashamed to tell him of her past and goes on to live a tortured life. Author Hoefling (Journey to God, 2010) seamlessly combines her extraordinary mastery of early biblical tales with a spirit of inventive creativity, weaving a story that both embellishes but also preserves the original story. The prose has a rhetorical style that’s often powerful in its simplicity: “I was charged with the sacred duty of preparing Eden for all of humanity to enjoy,” Adam says at one point. “Yet I did not have enough mastery over myself to do the one thing needful.” The plot sometimes slows to a saunter that’s much too leisurely, especially when retelling the story from the book of Genesis. Nonetheless, this is a gripping account that only deepens an inherited tale about the birth of mankind and about good and evil.
An often remarkable, if sometimes slow-paced, extension of an ancient tale.