I think perhaps Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund could have benefited from a firmer editing hand. The basis for a promising, provocative story is there. I was expecting, as this book touted, a "searing debate between evolutionists and creationists." Proof of life in another planet, the foundations of three religions shaken by a shocking new codex- exciting what ifs that I thought would be explored within the context of two people thrust into a semi-Biblical setting - innocence before the fall. Naslund took on too much and Adam and Eve did not deliver on its promise.
The book seemed a little schizophrenic. Not only do you have the scientific discovery, but then Lucy also somehow ends up with an unrelated, previously undiscovered ancient manuscript. Assassins hired by Christian, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists try to kill her. She falls from the sky into the one area in the Middle East that is unpopulated but for one gorgeous naked young man, who's also American, and luckily, it used to be a farm so there's plenty of food for both of them to survive. As if that isn't enough, secret prehistoric cave paintings are thrown into the mix.
Wild plot aside (I burst out laughing in some scenes, especially the one where there's this "wild" monkey boy that jumps from trees---never mind too long of a story), Adam and Eve's true downfall is the writing. Naslund is a gifted writer, no doubt. However, from the first chapter on, the narrative falters under the weight of its mysticism and esoteric tangents. The dialogue often veers into the ridiculous. I find that the more unbelievable and improbable the plot, then the more grounded the characters need to be to anchor the reader to the story, which didn't happen for me here.
"Everything's here," he answered. "that ever was or ever is to be. 'God in three persons,'" he suddenly sang the dying-fall chant of the doxology in a deep and resonant voice as though he could fill a cathedral, "god in three persons, Blessed Trinity...Everything's here and more," he went on in a quiet voice, matter-of-fact, explanatory.
"But Adam," I said, "how can you say 'everything and more' Everything is everything. You can't have more than everything. You don't use language right."
"Words disappear in the air," he explained. "Words are volatile. That's their essence. Who can say how they bubble up, how they break free, and disappear?"
I started to counter, Not if you write them down. Not if you put them on a disk and project them on the ceiling. Not if they're full of love. And meaning. But my words seemed less true than his.
"Scientists say," I said carefully, "that nothing escapes from a black hole. Not even information. Not light. But I never understood how could they speak of information in that context."
Naslund was trying to get a message across, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. That no matter how painful the cost, humans crave knowledge and will forsake a paradise of ignorance to obtain it? That religion is bad? That humans are responsible for their own downfall and salvation? I could not tell you.
I didn't dislike everything about the book. Lucy, as a modern Eve, is a strong, capable, and independent woman who can fly planes. She is hardly portrayed as the temptress to innocent Adam, but is the literal bearer of knowledge with shattering ramifications. The setup for what happens to her because she is the protector of that knowledge is fantastic one; unfortunately, the rest of the book didn't follow through.