Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Eve: A Novel of the First Woman"

Elissa Elliott is a former high school teacher and a contributing writer for Books & Culture.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her debut novel, Eve: A Novel of the First Woman, and reported the following:
Eve: A Novel of the First Woman is a reimagining of one of the world's oldest tales, about that fateful summer leading up to Cain killing Abel. It's told in Eve's voice and three of her daughters' voices. Based on extensive historical, archaeological, and religious research, it's a work of literary fiction meant to provoke questions and encourage discussion. Oh, and to tell a reader-worthy story.

Eve's daughters are radically different and lend their own insight into what's happening with the family dynamics. Naava is the self-absorbed fourteen-year-old, longing to leave what she knows, to go to the burgeoning city nearby. Aya is the crippled eleven-year-old, longing for a cure, disdainful of her family's tension. Dara is the six-year-old twin who sees the most of the city, since she is hired out by Eve to help the city woman take care of their children.

Page 69 is in Aya's voice. She has just killed a snake, which she equates as Lucifer, and her mother, horrified, tells her that she must learn her limits. Aya takes a day off from her cooking responsibilities to go into the hills with her older brother Abel and Dara's twin Jacan who are in charge of the flocks of goats and sheep. She has a mild crush on Abel, because she thinks he's the kindest of the family, and perhaps he doesn't write her off like the others do.

Abel's black goats and brindled sheep stood out against the white sandstone, which had been bleached by the sun and broken into bits by the wind and rain. The air was cooler and windier up here in the flinty hills, where Abel and Jacan brought their flocks. Not as much powdery choking dust as on the plains. The goats found the straggly clumps of wormwood and juniper and sparrow-wort and began grazing them back to rounded cushions.

Abel was kind. I fell behind several times, and he pretended to adjust his pack or tighten his sandals. He was always finished by the time I caught up with him. "It's beautiful up here," I said. I experienced an abrupt feeling of gratitude and a sudden keenness for camaraderie, and I smiled at him.

He said nothing but nodded and offered me a mouthful of water from his waterskin. I saw it was leaking, just a little. "Mother will make you a new one, you know."

"There's no need," he said. "Jacan and I are fine."

"Why don't you like Mother?" I asked.

He jumped a little and choked on his swallowing. He looked at me. "Not like Mother? What gave you that idea?"

"You're her favorite, you know." I put my good leg on a large rock and hoisted myself up to better survey the view of white sand, stretched out like a tired dog behind me. There, a ribbon of water; there, our house and vineyards and fields; and there, to the north, the strangers' walled complex, growing as steadily as Cain's amber barley and wheat fields.

Suddenly Abel was distant, aloof. "Aya, I don't believe Mother has a chosen favorite. And if she does, that is not of my doing."

I pointed to a cloud of dust approaching. "Someone's coming," I said.
Read an excerpt from Eve, and learn more about the book and author at Elissa Elliott's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue