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3.2 20
by Elsie V. Aidinoff

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In the tradition of Troy by Adèle Geras and Anita Diamant's The Red Tent comes an astonishing interpretation of one of the oldest stories in the world -- that of Eve, Adam, and their life in and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Narrated by Eve, The Garden follows her introduction to life, to the Garden of Eden and the Serpent, her


In the tradition of Troy by Adèle Geras and Anita Diamant's The Red Tent comes an astonishing interpretation of one of the oldest stories in the world -- that of Eve, Adam, and their life in and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Narrated by Eve, The Garden follows her introduction to life, to the Garden of Eden and the Serpent, her mentor there, and to her gradual comprehension of what God has planned for her as the mother of humankind. Passionate, witty, beautifully drawn, and utterly unforgettable, The Garden, a debut novel, offers new insights and personalization of a story that forms a cornerstone of our understanding.

Editorial Reviews


One of the world’s oldest stories becomes new again in the hands of a 70-year-old first-time novelist. The setting is a lush, freshly formed Garden of Eden, where Eve is just awakening to the all-wise, feathered Serpent who is her guardian....The story at times is overly descriptive. It is at its best during the dialogues between Eve and the Serpent, when age-old questions are asked and real answers are given....Perhaps most disturbing is the scene in which God urges Adam to take Eve against her will. Some readers, however, will find the book liberating—a meditation on the role of humanity in the world and on the compromises people make when they choose freedom instead of obedience.
Ilene Cooper(March 1, 2004)

Publishers Weekly
In Aidinoff's provocative debut, God has given Eve to the Serpent to raise while He rears Adam. As the book opens, narrator Eve is just coming to consciousness, and her sense of wonder as the Serpent introduces her to her surroundings is one of the novel's strengths; it also sets the stage for Eve's later decision to eat the apple. The author characterizes the Serpent as the embodiment of Reason, Justice and Wisdom, whereas most of the time God comes through as a rather two-dimensional fiery Old Testament deity. One day God becomes impatient to discover whether or not he's designed the male and female to procreate properly, so he rushes Adam and Eve into intercourse ("It's just that-I want to see it happen, so I know it works!"). The Serpent alone recognizes the consequences of God's act: "Until today Eve has felt... that the world was good.... [Adam] as good as raped her. With your encouragement." Eve leaves the Garden to gain some distance from God, and the Serpent accompanies her. Upon their return to the Garden, the roots of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil begin to grow; the Serpent senses that time is running out to teach Eve that lovemaking is good. The author develops Eve and the Serpent as more fully realized characters than God and Adam. Readers may ultimately have trouble sympathizing with the Serpent (given that he decides to step out of his role as ideal guardian to make love to Eve) and with God as portrayed here ("It's not good for you to know the difference between good and evil, because it's not good for you to think! Not for yourselves anyway," God says). Ages 14-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
First-time author Aidinoff has woven a tale of depth, drama, and inspiration in the Garden of Eden, taking the Creation stories from the Bible as a jumping-off point. Her Eve is an innocent but intelligent creature, born half-grown into a world of delight mentored by the Serpent, her tutor and friend. As she explores and learns, she discovers a questioning side to her nature and sometimes faces the consequences of following its beckoning to adventure. She also meets Adam, who exhibits every stereotype ever attributed to boys and lives with his mentor and tutor, God, in a life quite unlike hers except its physical environment. God, we find, is a larger than life human figure, portrayed as irascible, impatient, unable to understand his human creations, unwilling to learn from his mistakes (and there seem to be many—foremost among them: his insistence that Adam mate with Eve by force, a scene of such horror that it dominates the entire book and eventually requires the Serpent to assume human form and make love to Eve in a lush, pagan fantasy that somehow prepares her to forgive God and Adam and enter into her prescribed role as mother of the race). God is completely unlikable. And therein lies the flaw in this book: a God who is neither omnipotent nor omniscient is totally upstaged by the Serpent, who seems to be all this and more. However, the Serpent, obviously the preferred figure, is never identified other than by his own cryptic comment, "My role on this earth: to counterbalance the excesses of a jealous god." The reader cannot but help wonder what the author intends here by setting such a scene, unless it is to dispense with God and religion and have humans embrace "wisdom," or"justice," or "free will" without divine guidance. This reviewer found the book compelling but ultimately unsuccessful in that it did not integrate one of the most elemental human needs—belief in a higher power—and therefore recommends it only with this strong reservation. 2004, HarperTempest/HarperCollins, Ages 14 up.
—Judy Chernak
Young Eve takes her first breath in the Garden attended by her guardian, the beautiful, nurturing Serpent. Daily it teaches her about all of life, including the all-powerful Creator, God. When the Serpent finally takes her to meet God and Adam, the boy he teaches, Eve is fascinated. But when she questions God in order to understand more, God is annoyed, demanding that she obey unquestioningly. Eve and young Adam are instructed to come hear lessons from God about how to properly worship him. Eve's natural curiosity, nurtured by the Serpent, continues to anger the stern God. Impatient to see if his creations can properly procreate, God forces Adam on Eve in an ugly rape that devastates both Eve and Adam. The Serpent demands a six moon-cycle separation of the two, and during that time, Eve revels in the forays that she and the Serpent make outside of the Garden. When the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil grows as a result of Eve's travels, the Serpent carefully explains the consequences of disobeying God to Eve and Adam. Despite Eve's dark prophetic dreams, they choose freedom rather than unquestioning obedience to God and are expelled from the Garden. Aidinoff explains in her afterword that she consulted ancient texts that depict the Serpent as Wisdom, a being that was with God at Creation. Indeed the Serpent is richly portrayed as just and reasonable, often reminding the grumpy God about his earlier pontifications, even suggesting the words to use to curse the Serpent on its expulsion from the Garden. Eve's creative, inquisitive personality is heightened in juxtaposition to the good but unimaginative Adam, who creates balls to play with in order to ease the long hours of instruction fromGod. Some teens will be horrified by the characterization of a selfish God, whose portrayal the author says was influenced by the scientists who created the atomic bomb—exhilarated with their creation but unable to consider long-term implications. Others will be fascinated by the story's contemplations about freedom of choice, the soul, and the nature of good and evil. Female readers especially will be drawn to the sympathetic Eve and her wondrous mentor. This compelling, readable story will engender interesting debate! VOYA Codes 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, HarperCollins, 416p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Mary Ann Darby
School Library Journal
Gr 11 Up-A revision of the Fall as written in Genesis, The Garden is told from the perspective of Eve, a quizzical woman who questions everything from her own "birth" to God's authority. Aloof and careless, Adam is the more physical of the two; he enjoys the paradise of Eden, running with the antelope each day, never paying attention to the lessons that his didactic God has to offer. The two other characters in the novel are God, an authoritarian who views his children as toys, and the Serpent, his close friend and Eve's kind and understanding mentor. By writing from Eve's point of view, Aidinoff proffers an alternate perspective on an old story, but, unfortunately, the book ends up reinforcing old ideas, that women are more "emotional" and men more "physical." In the climax of the story, God impulsively, in an effort to see the fruits of his creativity and labor, forces Adam upon Eve. This rape leads Eve to distrust God and eventually-with the Serpent's help-leave the Garden. The Genesis story has incredible revisionist possibilities, but the characters here are flat and uninteresting, and the simplistic dialogue is not compelling. Ultimately, the author's effort to retell the "Fall" in a fresh way frankly falls, and fails to do just that.-Kelly Berner Richards, St. George's School, Newport, RI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This fleshy retelling of the Garden of Eden story, told from Eve's perspective, includes an abusively arrogant God and a color-changing Serpent representing wisdom. Eve awakens into consciousness one day with the Serpent coiled around her body. It raises her and lives with her. The deathless, non-carnivorous Garden is lush with fruit and flowers; Eve's happy until God forces Adam to rape her. Towards her recovery, the Serpent helps her travel secretly outside the Garden, seeing parts of nature that have grown beyond God's control. Her mind, too, grows beyond God's insistence that "it's not good for you to think!" It may trouble readers (though it doesn't trouble Eve) when the teacher/mentor Serpent becomes her lover. Caught between novel and allegory, this will challenge those who've never questioned biblical values, but it lacks the sparkle of Julius Lester's When the Beginning Began (1999) (author's note) (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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4.76(w) x 8.02(h) x 1.30(d)
710L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

The Garden

Chapter One

The Beginning

Something heavy on my center, smooth against my skin, shifting very slightly within itself, stretched and retracted. Occasionally a tap to the side, always in the same spot. I breathed. Instantly the thing was still. I let out the air. Again I inhaled, deeply, and pushed against the heaviness as I filled my chest. The thing began to move. Slowly, stopping and starting, it wound back and forth across my thigh, around my knee, down my leg. It slid over my ankle, passed gently by my heel, with a little touch to my instep along the way. There was a swish. Again, silence and dark. I felt light, unburdened, empty, as if I might float away. Soft things swept my face, my cheek, my ear, wafted across my nose. My hands rose from my sides and brushed them off. There was a tickle in my nose; I gasped, gasped again. A great noise burst from my mouth. My eyelids jerked open. And I saw.

At first there was only blue, limpid and luminous, stretching wide above me. A white, fluffy mass appeared, scudded across the expanse, tumbled into pieces, and melted into the blue. I lifted my arms, spread my fingers. Light came through them; the ends glowed pink. I curled a finger into my palm and felt it scratch the skin. On my arms fine hairs glimmered in the sunlight. Still lying flat, I turned my head to one side. Not far away several forms, tall and dark and topped with green fluff, stretched toward the sky. Scattered around me and floating through the air were weightless bits of pink, turned up around the edges: blossoms falling from trees; it was one of them that had tickled my nose. I caught a petal as it fell and rubbed it against my cheek. It was soft and smelled sweet. I raised my head and looked down. More new sights: two small, white cushions topped with pink, each with a tip that stuck out. A smooth, soft expanse where the weight had been. Below, something fuzzy and gold. Sitting up, I discovered legs, ankles, feet, toes with shiny ends just like the ones on my fingers. A petal rested on my foot; it slid away when I wiggled my toe.

That first day, of course, I did not know it was the sky I saw, the wind that moved my hair, an apple tree that shed pink petals on my toe. Cloud, face, blossom: all were unknown. I had no knowledge, no words. Each time I turned my head and found, before my eyes, something I had not seen, the world expanded. Bending my knees, I took my feet in my hands. The soles were tender and a little wrinkled. I lifted my hands and found my mouth, nose, eyes, and above, a tremendous load of stuff, soft and very long. I pulled my fingers through it and stretched my arms as far as I could reach, drew the stream over my face, and saw the world through a fall of gold. When I blew, my breath sent it ballooning in front of me. The sight, the feel of it, astonished me, and I laughed.

There was a rustle in the leaves, and I heard a sound like the one I had made when my hair billowed on my breath. I stood and saw, in the shade of the tree, a mound of coils sheathed in brilliant colors, moving and shifting constantly, topped with a feathered head. Two emerald eyes looked out at me from a brown face. The creature's mouth was open and its head shook. When it realized I had seen it, it stopped and flicked a green tongue over its lips.

"Well, little one," it said. "I don't mean to laugh at you—but it's amusing to see you wake from the silence and start to explore the world." It set its head to the ground and moved toward me, straightening its body one coil at a time. In the sun it wound itself again into a circle and raised itself high, bringing its head level with mine. I reached out my hand and ran my fingers down its back, overwhelmed by its beauty. The creature stretched under my caress. Then it shook its head. "And you know how to laugh. And sneeze. That is a gift not given to gods."

"Gods," I said. "What are gods?"

"Never mind. It's not important now. Much more important to know yourself." It inclined its head to the left and smiled. "You," it said softly, "are Eve." It drew out the e: Eeeeve, with a little puff at the end. The name sounded beautiful and worthy.

"Eeeeve," I said.

"Yes," it replied. "I've been watching over you. I'm glad you're awake."

"Oh, it was you that was sitting on my . . . " I put my hand on the place where I had felt its weight.


"My stomach."

"Yes. I hope you don't mind. I was listening for your heart to begin its beat. You were so soft and comfortable in the sun, I grew quite sleepy."

"But you're too . . ." I spread my arms wide.


"Big to fit on my stomach."

The creature smiled. "Oh, I made myself smaller," it said. "I wouldn't want to squash you—especially not when you've just come to life."

"And who," I asked, "are you?"

The creature uncoiled itself and drew its body toward the sky so that it was nearly standing on its tail. "I," it said, "am the Serpent. God has given you to me to raise. He has placed you in my care. I am your mentor, guide, and teacher. For you are new to the world. You know nothing." The Serpent smiled as if it were paying me a compliment. "You are mine to form and to teach. That, for instance, is your foot." It slid over gracefully and licked the end of my foot. I looked at my feet, and then at my body, and cupped my hands under the cushions with pink tips. "Those are your breasts," the Serpent said.

"Breasts," I repeated.

"Below is your stomach."

"Stomach," I said.

"Legs. And these," it said, "are your toes. And toenails. Repeat after me. Feet."



"Toes, toenails, legs, stomach, breasts."

"Ah," said the Serpent. "A quick learner. Good. But we won't rush. We have lots of time. You must be hungry."

"Hungry?" I asked.

"Yes. A funny feeling in your stomach. It means you need to eat." "Eat?" I asked.

The Serpent sighed. "Come, I'll show you."

The Garden. Copyright © by Elsie Aidinoff. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Educated at Smith and Columbia, Elsie V. Aidinoff has lived in Paris, Brussels, Hong Kong, London, and New York. She has been involved in education most of her life, starting in 1965 as a tutor in a junior high school with the New York City School Volunteer Program (now Learning Leaders). Since 1980, she has worked at the Children's Storefront School, a tuition-free independent school in Harlem, as a teacher, administrator, and trustee. The mother of four grown children, she lives in New York City with her husband, a lawyer.

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Garden 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, but I can understand how a religious person could be turned off by it. If you do not approach this book with an open mind, you WILL hate it. It completely redoes the story of the garden of eden, which most christians (99%) are obviously going to find offensive. so if you can't wrap your mind around Eve not being the downfall of all mankind, don't even THINK about picking up this book, because no one wants to hear another religiously-biased review.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that in order to fully appreciate and enjoy this book, one must read it without comparing it at all to the original story of Adam and Eve, the book is certaintly better when viewed as it's own piece of literature. It simply makes more sense this way The story really has little in common with the original story, except for the characters names. The serpent, instead of embodying evil, is wisdom and justice, and reason, he's the good guy. And god, rather then being a kind and merciful being, or even a vengeful one, is instead merely selfish, arrogant, and ignorant. If you are going to be offended by the author taking such great liberties, or if you're unable to seperate the two tales, i suggest you to skip this book. That being said, the book was pretty good. here were a couple typos, and there were some logistical issues. The way Eve was able to make clothe from cotton and wool without looms or spindles, basically everything she created, without any of the proper or necessary technology was unrealistic. The fact that she was even able to imagine all these inventions, which allow the world we know it to function today, would probably make her a certified genius. All that being said.....it was pretty good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that it was awesome, the parts in which the serpent turned out to be a teacher to Eve were great...and I guess you could say some of this stuff could have actually happened I mean, people and historians and all those other 'smart' people twisted history around.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm an English major who was looking for an interesting read. The novel was difficult to get through, and there are a lot of funny errors - like how God says 'boys will be boys' and Adam is the first and only boy at this point. The story gets confusing as it tries to be too many things at once, yes we know it's science vs. Christianity, but it feels shoved down one's throat and is done ungracefully with too many jarring questions. Also, the author made them blonde haired and obviously Caucasian, though she's spent quite some time poking the reader with the scientific aspects of the world, only to throw a sort of racist curve ball. Tiresome and shallow, with bits of witty humor here and there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most boring and blasphemous books I have ever read. I do not recommend this book to anyone. It's distorted interpretation of the bible story is totally wrong as well as sexist and even describes the serpent, or the devil as having sexual relations with Eve, and according to the author, the serpent,or the devil, is also the hero. While God is the arrogant, insenstive, and selfish antagonist. This book was a waste of time to read and seemed to drag on forever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw that a few had wrote this was a book that you shouldn't waste your time on. I personaly loved the book. You have to be open that the book isn't at all what the Bible is about. It is about Adam and Eve this is true, however those that are know books like this aren't what really happened it is just the opinion of the writer and I thought she wrote it VERY well. I would recommend it to everyone it was NOT a waste of time...... It was very intertaining as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maybe i am just too picky about writing style, but i found this book to be extremely boring, and i don't know who edited it, but it seemed to have far too many grammatical errors. In the mean while the holes in the plot and bizarre, illogical plot twists drove me crazy! This book is not worth anyone's time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't understand why this book received such low ratings (perhaps for religious reasons...) however, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys books along the same line as Wicked, in other words, books that like to deconstruct a story you think you know so well. The prose of this book was anything but dry or 'boring', in fact the dialogue was engaging. And the characterization of God is quite fitting with the role he plays in the bible. Overall, this was an excellent work of fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was bored most of the book. The characters were not appealing. Instead of empowering women Aidinoff just gave men one more reason to put us down. She contradicted herself so many times. If I were the mother of a 'male' I would be insulted by her portrayal of Adam and God.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While other reviewers gave up on this book, I was truly impressed with the retelling. It's a story I'd heard a million times, but the way this author told this story, I couldn't put it down. It poses important questions about how we think, what free will is, and how we determine good from bad. An excellent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW... was this book horrible! The plot was hard to follow and the mistakes of historical and bibilcal references makes the author seem uneducated. I pleed that no one waste their time on this lousy book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Garden was the worst piece of literature that I have ever read! This story was a bust for many reasons including shallow characters and bizarre plot twists. I am an open minded person who is currently exploring many religions, and so I read this book hoping for a different take on a biblical story, however I was ultimately disappointed. This was not a story that offers insight, instead it left me with a feeling of astonishment and anger that such a train wreck could be published!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must say that the idea of this classic story being retold in the point of view of Eve was intriguing at first, however as I read this story I came to realize that there has never been a plot that I liked less in my entire life. Aidinoff has the ability to take a plot that has so much potential and turn it into a disaster. Even if one were to disregard the fact that she has no knowledge of theology and/or history, the literature expressed by this individual was complete with holes in the plot and undeveloped characters. I wish that there were possible to give this book a negative rating, however it is not so I am forced to leave it at one, disgraceful star.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was an excellent way to learn about the positive qualities Eve & the Serpeant had. They have always been portrayed as evil, and that man and God are all knowing and wonderful who are trying to find their paths by not becoming distracted from temptation/women. In a time when our country is unfortunately led by 'good and evil' this is an excellent book to see that the label evil is a misnomer. Without gaining Wisdom, justice, and knowledge that is the true evil in the world. I got a lot out of this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, I found, was a great way of telling the story of the Garden of Eden in a unique and original way. It is however not a book that a closed-minded and strictly religious person might want to read. Not being a religious person myself and having problems with some of the actualities of the story of the Garden of Eden, I found this book to be a fresh, fair, and satisfying way of telling it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a fantastic book in many ways. I can see how it might offend some religious readers, but I advise all readers to have an open mind. I myself am not very religious. The book was great, reflecting on so many things. Kind of put me to thinking alot. I recommend it alot. But only to the semi-religious and open minded. (no offense, anyone.) I assume Mrs.Aidinoff must be a very brilliant thinker to write such a passionate novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must admit that giving this book one star was gernerous. One for effort. The problem I had with it, was with the story itself. I didn't like how Mrs. Aidinoff made God seem obtuse, and arrogant. It is very insulting to me and others that believe God is kind, wonderful, and loving. I must repeat that this book was a waste of my time and that of the author. Now that I have purchased this book I don't know what to do with it. Donating it to a library would just let this story spread its poisonous words onto others.