Excerpted from Eve by Elissa Elliott. Copyright © 2009 by Elissa Elliott. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
It is exceedingly difficult to be the favored child. Not only do I have to soothe Mother when she gets upset or has misunderstood something, but I have to negotiate the bitterness and jealousy of my siblings, younger and older. This is no small task. I did not ask for this role (for we all play roles, don’t we, in our families?). Mother has made it no secret that I am the child sent by Elohim as a replacement for Abel, the son she lost by Cain’s hand, and there’s no avoiding it. My very name means “appointed.” We’ve all heard the story of that summer, repeated it until we can recite what each person said and did, although I will say it is a difficult story to follow when everyone is present, due to their vastly different views of the same event. How can that be?
From what I’ve heard from my older siblings, I grew up with different parents than they did. They describe Mother and Father as preoccupied, vengeful, and untrusting—strict and unyielding—and I want to know where those parents went, because my parents have been only attentive and loving to me—more relaxed, less intervening. I was taught from the time I could talk that Elohim is the one true god and that He deserves our love and devotion. Where is the angst and quandary that Aya describes? Where is the meanness that Naava speaks of? Dara might be the only one who has forgiven them for trading her services with the city. She’s always said, “It worked out for the best. See? I learned a great many things. And now I’m well taken care of by my saffron merchant!” I’ve only met Jacan twice, and he’s not one to ruminate over the past. The time I saw him down by the city’s wharf, unkempt and agitated, he told me gruffly, “Our parents were blind to the anger stirring between Cain and Abel. We all knew that they would kill each other, given the chance. I wish they had sent Cain away sooner. Do you know what Abel told me, even when I was yay high? He said, ‘Jacan, Cain’s been trying to kill me for years.’ ” He leaned forward slightly and said, “You’ve heard the cistern story, right?” I nodded. He seemed to think we’d come to some agreement then—that I understood completely. But I didn’t. Why did Abel incite Cain’s wrath with the sacrifices? Why attempt a contest to see whose offerings would be accepted? Abel must have wanted to emerge a victor, or at least rub Cain’s face in it.
The one person missing from all the recountings has been Cain. I’ve not met him yet—he’s kept his distance—but I intend to search for him one day, to hear his side of the story. I cannot imagine the beast that my siblings describe, being a firm believer that a person must be riled up in order to do such vile things. To have killed a brother—flesh and blood—is an unspeakable sin, I know, but I cannot think that Abel did nothing to aggravate him, as perfect as Mother and Aya suggest he was. I asked Aya once how I compared to Abel, since Mother has seen fit to slip me into that coveted spot. Do you know what she said? “Seth, Mother has a warped view of everything. She sees only what she wants to see”—here she paused briefly, then went on—“although she’s getting better. Abel was, truly, a special person, so gentle and loving. He was distant in a way, but I think that was because he didn’t know what to do with Mother’s attentions. He was shy.” She laid her hand on my arm. “He questioned a considerable amount, but he would not let Mother see it, because she would have glommed on to him even more. You, little brother, are a lamb. You believe what you’re told, and you trust without question that Elohim is the one true god—”
“But He is,” I said. “He made Mother and Father. He brought us safely to this land. He protects us, sustains us.” I didn’t understand her flippant regard for the possibility that Elohim might not be who Mother and Father say He is.
“I know, darling,” she said. “I believe, too, but perhaps not in the same way you do. You were always so insightful when you were little. You lost some of that as you got older. Do you remember asking me about the fruit?”
I shook my head.
“You asked me, ‘If Elohim didn’t want Mother and Father to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, why did He put it in the Garden?’ ” She smiled. “You see? You had all the same questions we did. We just couldn’t answer them for you.”
I remembered. I just realized, early on, that my questions were not going to be answered satisfactorily and went on living.
There’s a sort of terror that builds in a person, though, when he’s been set apart for something different than his siblings as I have. Mother and Father have not stated it in so many words, but I feel as though they expect grander things of me—that I am to be an example to all the others. They treat me differently, ask my opinion, and trust my instincts, in ways they don’t with their other children. I’ve grown up increasingly fearful that I will fail them, displease them. I’ve not slept a solid night in years. When my older siblings blithely state that I have it easy, I want to scream and tell them, “No, I pay for it every night of dark worry. You don’t know.” But how can I explain it to them? They only see our parents’ attentions, their acquiescence, their favoritism, and assume it’s a good thing.
And just as I wonder at my family’s past, I wonder about our future. Will Elohim ever return and show His face? Will He reward those of us who are seeking to do good on this weary earth of His? Will He hear our daily cries for mercy and set His face favorably toward us, so that we might see Him more clearly? Or are there more disasters on the horizon?
I am to be married soon, to a girl from the city—Radjni, Dara’s best friend. She is the daughter of a metal worker, and one of us, a believer in Elohim. I’ve been apprenticed to her father for several years now in exchange for her hand in marriage, and when my craftmanship was recently deemed excellent enough, her father clapped me on the back and said, “Welcome to our family, son. All I have is yours.” He grinned. “As well as my daughter.” She has a calming effect on me, a peaceful way of moving and speaking that I gravitate toward. When I first met her, I found her plain in the face, but since I’ve spent more time with her, I’ve found her increasingly beautiful. Behind those light eyes are kindness and laughter, and she regales me with stories of growing up in a motherless home, which you might think one would find daunting, but which she found to be adventurous.
I will be grateful to leave my home and become one with my wife. We shall start our own family. We shall worship Elohim and pray to Him on a daily basis. I will not have to worry about acting as a liaison anymore—or a favorite son—except when I receive word Mother and Father are coming for a visit, and I know I will find it difficult not to return to the boy I am around them. It’s impossible not to.
1. If you grew up in a religious setting and knew the story of the Garden of Eden before reading this novel, did Elohim [God] appear different than you expected Him to? In what way? Do you think it is valuable to look upon Him as male and female?
2. Eve had no female role model as women do today. Who might have been her role model? How might she have figured out what she was supposed to do?
3. Each of the sisters plays a certain role in the family. Aya is the precocious, eleven-year-old food gatherer and healer. Naava is the selfabsorbed teenage weaver. Dara is the confused six-year-old who cares for the neighboring city’s youngest. How are these girls like or unlike girls you’ve known? Are their struggles similar to the struggles of girls today? How?
4. Eve steals seeds from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. What significance do the seeds play? Why does Eve think they can save her?
5. Why do you think Elohim honored Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s? Was it Elohim that sent the streak of fire from the sky or coincidence?
6. Doubt is a vital part of the story. What part does doubt play in faith? How much doubt can you express before you’re labeled a heretic?
7.What do you think the city symbolizes for Cain? For Naava? Why are they so drawn to it? How will it save or ruin them?
8. The subtitle says that Eve was the first woman, but in the book Eve’s family runs into an already burgeoning city. Do you believe Eve was the first woman, or the first Hebrew woman, or part of a great many people that were created (all at once or over time)? Why?
9. Right before Elohim throws Adam and Eve out of the Garden, He explains why He must do so: It’s because He’s afraid they will eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. If the Tree of Life is a sort of antidote to the “poison” of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, why wouldn’t He give it to them? And is there something He’s withholding from us today?
10. Aya struggles with understanding what prayer is. She doesn’t hear anything. She doesn’t know what to ask. Have you felt the same way? Do you pray, and if so, how? What is prayer to you?
11. How does the Sumerian culture of the city affect Eve’s family? What issues arise because of it?
12. If you know the story of Job, you’ll know that God allowed Satan to make him ill and destroy his family. Do you think God and Lucifer had the same agreement with Eve? Why or why not?
13. Are the dysfunctions of the first family like your own? Unlike your own? How?
14. Did your opinions of Eve, Aya, Naava, and Dara shift throughout the novel? Did the women do anything to surprise you, and if so, what?
15.We see the men of the story only through the women’s eyes. What questions would you like to have asked of Adam, Cain, Abel, and Jacan? How do you think they’d have responded?
16. Have you ever met a sort of “Lucifer” in your own life? What happened and how did it affect you?