four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
David Maine
user_rating: 
0

A-FallenThe story of Cain and Abel stands as the canonical tale of fratricidal rivalry. Maine renders it in flashback, beginning with an old, haunted Cain and following Genesis in retrospect: murder, Cain’s offering spurned by God, and Adam and Eve on the other side of Eden. Somewhere in the middle, humanity at its birth turns out to be a relatively feisty, dysfunctional family, replete with a forlorn, henpecked husband and irreverent, bickering teenaged sons. "Why would God create a perfect place and then allow the Devil in it, just to trick you?" demands Cain of his father. Extracting a surprising, personal familiarity from the drama of the Old Testament, Maine conveys the regret, confusion, and pain of paradise lost.
St. Martin’s. 244 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0312328494

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"David Maine’s Fallen builds suspensefully toward what is arguably the best-known episode in the story of mankind: the banishment of Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. Given the fact that its denouement will surprise nobody, this book’s power to rivet the reader approaches the miraculous." Janet Maslin

Richmond Times-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"Where Maine shines is in his ability to use keen psychological insight as well as an understanding of human foibles to make these familiar characters seem real. … Fallen is a brilliant novel, a fascinating take on the Bible’s creation story, and a really good read." Elizabeth D. Dickie

Tampa Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Working backward through time, Maine artfully uses the creation myth to explore modern attitudes toward faith and family, sexuality and guilt. … The topic is fascinating and Maine’s writing is suffused with an economical beauty, rendering an intelligent and thought-provoking take on the creation myth." Kevin Walker

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The authorial transgressions in Fallen are, in the end, eminently forgivable. Much like the fruit that so tempted Eve, Maine’s work is ‘pleasing to the eye and desirable to make one wise’—providing plenty of food for the thoughtful reader." Gigi Lehman

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"On the whole, I found this structure more clever than engaging. … But what’s most remarkable about Maine’s work is his ability to soar above theological camps on gossamer wings of irony." Ron Charles

Critical Summary

Interweaving original sin, theological inquiry, and biblical murder is no easy task, and Maine navigates between genuine reverence and sly irony with deftness. Fallen is a wry and daring novel, even more so than Maine’s debut The Preservationist (2004), a lively rendering of Noah’s clan on the ark. While Maine shines at fleshing out the weighty themes of the Old Testament with three-dimensional characters (squabbling yet sympathetic), the retrograde plotline of his new novel, traveling from murderous climax to the birth of the human population, is anticlimactic. Nonetheless, his provocative take on our "roots" (as creationists would have it) revisits our acute losses and gains, our bratty sons, our marriages full of bickering, and our yearning to return.