Eve: A Nov­el of the First Woman

Elis­sa Elliot

By – January 9, 2012

Elis­sa Elliott has writ­ten a midrashic nov­el in a com­pelling nar­ra­tive about life for Adam and Eve after the expul­sion. The sto­ry is told from the point of view of Eve and her three daugh­ters, Aya, Dara, and Naa­va, each aunique char­ac­ter in the telling of life after Eden. Their sto­ries are told in the first per­son, and the men, while major char­ac­ters, are sec­ondary in the nar­ra­tive and spo­ken of only in the third person. 

This is a sto­ry of both phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al strug­gle in the strange and often hos­tile world in which Adam and Eve learn to sur­vive. The most com­pelling part of the book is Eve’s rec­ol­lec­tion of life in Eden and their encounter with the Divine. Ms. Elliott writes in mod­ern Midrash of what it may have been like to be in the pres­ence of God and to talk and walk with a celes­tial being on earth. The scenes between Eve and the nachash are the most intrigu­ing, as the crea­ture is pre­sent­ed not only as seduc­tion or evil, but as doubt; doubt which will lead Eve to eat of the for­bid­den fruit. The rest of her life Eve will con­tin­ue to both believe and doubt in a God that cre­at­ed Eden and then so harsh­ly threw them into a world of labor and pain. How could they con­tin­ue to have faith and find peace in God’s world?

Bar­bara Andrews holds a Mas­ters in Jew­ish Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, has been an adult Jew­ish edu­ca­tion instruc­tor, and works in the cor­po­rate world as a pro­fes­sion­al adult educator.

Discussion Questions

1. Describe your own expe­ri­ence with the sto­ry of Adam and Eve. When did you first hear it? How have you inter­pret­ed it through­out your life?

2. What was the effect of the vary­ing points of view offered in the nov­el? How does Eve’s voice com­pare to the voic­es of the oth­er characters?

3. How does Elis­sa Elliott shape the tale of Adam and Eve into a love sto­ry? If this is a nov­el of the first rela­tion­ship, as much as a nov­el of the first woman, what does it tell us about the nature of life­long love? What does it tell us about the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties between men and women?

4. How did the novel’s ver­sion of Elo­him com­pare to your ideas about God? Does the notion of Elo­him as male, referred to with male pro­nouns, affect the way he inter­acts with the first female human?

5. In her after­word, the author describes some of the dis­tinc­tions between God’s arch­en­e­my as he is por­trayed in the Old Tes­ta­ment ver­sus in the Gospel. How did the novel’s ver­sion of Lucifer enhance your under­stand­ing of suf­fer­ing in the world? Who (or what) are the mod­ern-day voic­es of temptation?

6. In Eve, is ban­ish­ment from the Gar­den a rea­son­able con­se­quence for Adam and Eve after they eat from the for­bid­den fruit? Are pain and toil pun­ish­ments” or sim­ply con­se­quences? What was your under­stand­ing of Elohim’s plan, and the lim­its of his power?

7. How does Adam and Eve’s par­ent­ing com­pare to Elohim’s? What does Eve indi­cate about the nature of dis­obe­di­ence in general?

8. What are Naava’s moti­va­tions through­out the nov­el? Does she mature, or is it sim­ply in her nature to be manip­u­la­tive? How is she affect­ed by the liai­son with her broth­er? Would you have returned to your fam­i­ly after being with the prince?

9. How would you describe the atti­tudes of Adam and Eve’s oth­er chil­dren? When Aya gives hem­lock to Naa­va against her bet­ter judg­ment, what state­ment is being made about the dif­fer­ences between siblings?

10. What is spe­cial about Dara’s inno­cent vision of the world? How does she feel about her twin, Jacan? Are their old­er sib­lings good role models?

11. What expla­na­tion can you offer for Cain’s hatred for Abel? Are such rival­ries more com­mon among broth­ers? How did you react to Elohim’s unequal response to their offerings?

12. Dis­cuss the oth­er belief sys­tem described in the nov­el. What inspires the char­ac­ters to cre­ate a diverse array of gods? What does their expe­ri­ence indi­cate about why we believe what we believe? Why would it have been tempt­ing to turn to Inan­na, the Queen of Heav­en, a female deity?

13. Eve is filled with themes of seeds, plant­i­ng, and birth. What vision of cre­ation is pre­sent­ed in her story?

14. In the end, Eve believes that it is she who kept her eyes and ears closed to Elo­him, not the oth­er way around. In what ways was he present for her, and for her fam­i­ly, although they could not see him?

15. The after­word and the author’s web­site (www​.elis​sael​liott​.com) pro­vide con­sid­er­able resources for addi­tion­al read­ing, includ­ing bib­li­cal pas­sages. Draw­ing on these sources, what obser­va­tions can you make about sto­ry­telling styles in the ancient world? How does read­ing a nov­el spark your imag­i­na­tion in ways that archae­o­log­i­cal find­ings or oth­er his­to­ries cannot?

16. Could Lucifer have talked you into eat­ing from the for­bid­den tree?