A set of revised Bible stories with an eye toward better highlighting the role of women and presenting a God who's as conflicted as those he made in his image.
The second novel by Rakow (The Memory Room, 2002) opens with a woman visiting a confessional for the first time in more than 30 years and bearing a “Bible of her own” filled with brief, often poetic recastings of the Old and New Testaments. The general narrative arcs remain intact in these retellings—Cain slays Abel, a burning bush appears before Moses, Jesus is tempted in the desert, and so forth. But Rakow thoughtfully offers sensitive and complex readings that are free of moral thundering. For instance, the source of Jesus’ temptation is not Satan but Jesus himself, and Noah’s tale is less about the fate of the Earth than of Noah’s own marriage: “his wife and family senseless on the water, the life they had, obliterated.” Nobody is more self-questioning here than God himself, whose mercurial nature is sparked by his need “to be loved not for his power or his omniscience but for his mercy.” Rakow also emphasizes the women in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament stories, including the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene (here one of Jesus’ close confidantes), the “unclean” woman with an issue of blood, and more; the crucifixion is seen largely from the perspective of a young peasant, Veronica. Rakow doesn’t radicalize the Bible—only a hard-liner would take offense at her interpretations—but she does make it more humanistic and poetic; as the endnotes explain, she’s borrowed some lines from Jack Gilbert and Henri Cole. The effect is occasionally overly airy, but she gets credit for using religious language while avoiding familiar sentiment and interpretations.
An affecting flash-fiction reimagining of the Good Book.