My Thoughts on Sena Jeter Naslund, Adam & Eve: What Happened to Eden?

Welcome to the TLC Tour for Adam & Eve!

Title:Adam & Eve: What Happened to Eden?
Author: Sena Jeter Naslund
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Date: 2010
Genre: Literary Fiction

335 pages.
Where I got it: From the publisher for review through TLC Tours
Challenges: None

I hope Adam & Eve will not be read as a straight realistic novel.  It moves in metaphoric ways. In some ways it is a sort of fable, though I stop short of letting the animals talk. To enjoy the novel, don't expect brick-and-mortar logic. Hang loose and swing imaginatively into the events and settings. The story is partly a dance of ideas.
The quote above is from the P.S. interview with Seta Jeter Naslund at the back of the copy of the book that I received, and it is a quote that helped me immensely in understanding the novel.  The New York Journal of Books is prominently quoted on the cover calling Adam & Eve, "a book unlike any other,"  and I would say that for me, that quote is certainly true.  It isn't exactly that I didn't understand the novel, as the plot is relatively straightforward, although unexpected.  I just didn't know what to do with it, and still don't a little bit.

Naslund's book begins with Lucy Bergmann, the wife of a prominent astrophysicist, sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam, as a grand piano falls and kills her husband.  Far away, in a desert in Mesopotamia, a young soldier is awakening on a beach in what he considers to be a new Eden.  The paths of these two will cross, as Lucy attempts to accomplish a top secret mission, finding herself in the same Eden.  Both Lucy and Adam are damaged, and need a way to start anew.  Both find a beginning at The Beginning, in Genesis.  All of this is very strange, but compelling.  I enjoyed reading about the Eden in which the two live, and the relationship that develops between them as they build a new reality, very different from their old ones.

Unfortunately, that isn't the only thing that is going on in the novel.  There is a more philosophical, less conspiratorial, DaVinci Code-like plot going on with some ancient sacred texts and a group of religious fundamentalists, Perpetuity, invested in getting their hands on them.  There is also the issue of the flash drive that Lucy wears around her neck, containing her husband's discovery of life on other planets, another piece of information that frustrates the fundamentalist worldview.  All of these plots are interesting, and for the most part, I enjoyed following all the leads.  It is only in the end where tying them all together feels a little messy and hurried, and I was disappointed in the way that some of the relationships turned out, although I won't spoil the ending.

It isn't only in the plotting and premise that Naslund's book is "unlike any other."  I found Naslund's writing to be fairly unique as well.  There is a poetics to her prose, which often dives in philosophical inquiry, and then quickly surfaces back into a conventional narrative structure. Her descriptions and use of metaphor are often unconventional, and sometimes disconcerting.  I would jump out of the narrative for a moment, to wonder why she would describe something that way.  Why is there a cow wandering in the desert, for example?  The quote I provided above, and reading about Naslund's intentions with the book, helped me to appreciate the style, which in the end, I think is comparable to a dance.

Overall:  I appreciated the uniqueness of the book, and would recommend it for anyone who is interested in the sorts of issues it presents: fundamentalism, sacredness, genesis, grief and trauma. However,  it has been difficult for me to review the book in any conventional way, because it was an unconventional read and a lot of the terminology I would normally apply seems just a little unfitting.  But, mine is not the only opinion, and if you would like to see some (potentially more articulate) others, visit the other tour hosts here:

Tuesday, July 26: Wordsmithonia

Wednesday, July 27: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Thursday, July 28: Life In Review

Monday, August 1: A Fanatic’s Book Blog

Tuesday, August 2: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, August 10: Man of La Book

Thursday, August 11: Rundpinne

Thursday, August 11: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife

Date TBD: Much Madness is Divinest Sense


  1. This one certainly sounds unique. I'm glad you stuck with it even though you didn't end up "getting" it completely.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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