From the internationally acclaimed author of The Preservationist comes a provocative retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel: a novel that gives new meaning to the words "temptation," "rivalry," and "murder."
Their expulsion from the Garden is only the beginning: Eve and Adam have to find their way past recriminations and bitterness, to construct a new life together in a harsh land. But the challenges are many for the world's first family. Among their children are Cain and Abel, and soon they must discover how to be parents to one son who is everything they could hope for, and another who is sullen, difficult, and rife with insecurities and jealousies. In the background, always, is the incomprehensibility of God's motives as He watches over their faltering attempts to build a life. In Fallen, David Maine has drawn a convincing, wryly observant, and enthralling portrait of a familyone driven (and riven) by passions, irrationality, and love. The result is an intimate, in-depth story of brothers, a husband, and a wifepeople whose struggles are both completely familiar and yet utterly original.
|Publisher:||Tantor Media, Inc.|
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About the Author
David Maine was born in 1963 and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona, and has worked in the mental health systems of Massachusetts and Arizona. He has taught English in Morocco and Pakistan, and since 1998 has lived in Lahore, Pakistan, with his wife, novelist Uzma Aslam Khan.
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By David Maine
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 David Maine
All rights reserved.
the old man
The mark burns upon him all the time now. Its hurt is open and shameful like a scab picked until it bleeds. In years past he could find ways to forget it or at least misplace his awareness for a while; it was never easy but he managed. These days he cannot. There is nothing to fill Cain's time so the mark does this for him.
It stains his flesh like a parasite.
Countless people have witnessed it over the years, but even those who have not don't lack for an opinion. Some say it is a letter — the first letter of his name, reversed to show God's displeasure. Others say it carries the shape of a stillborn child, or a wolf's skull, or a coiled serpent. Still others, less fanciful perhaps or just duller, claim it is no picture at all. Merely a smear unreadable, the Devil's thumbprint or God's. What does the shape matter? The point is, it is there, plainly visible, crying out to be seen.
But the miracle lies in the seeing. For all those who look upon the mark see it differently. Like the Tower of Babel reflected mirrorwise, everyone who lays eyes upon Cain's face beholds something different from all the others, sees the message spelled in a different tongue, though the message is always the same.
And what message is thus conveyed? A simple one: Don't touch. Stay away. Leave this one alone.
The others in this house, Cain's in-laws and grandchildren, heed this advice and give him a wide berth. Only his son remains stubbornly loyal. And recently, his dead brother as well.
But now Cain is convinced that Abel has left him forever: tonight's visit was his last. So with nothing more to do, he waits to die. He is not being dramatic. Among his many faults, this is not one. He expects to be dead by morning.
The old man shifts and wheezes. The wet climate he finds himself banished to torments his breathing. Deserts are tough but at least the air is clean. Not that he expects sympathy: impetuous he may be, hot-tempered and violent, resentful and self-pitying, any number of undesirable qualities. But he has never been stupid.
So then. He shifts his weight in the crepuscular gloom of the hut and allows his gaze to drift past the low open entryway, outside to where the fading crimson sky has clotted into dusk. From outside float children's laughter and the calmer voice of his son. Cain knows he is not welcome out there. Nor unwelcome exactly; but if he ventured from his hut the voices would quickly fade, glances would be cast down, the children would drift off, and the women's mouths would tighten.
No. He will stay inside this night. At least it will be his last such.
Cain settles onto the earth, arms folded behind his head. A sigh ripples through his nose and musses the yellowing whiskers of his beard. So the matter of his mortality has been decided. In a strange way a burden has been lifted. If he were carefree he might start whistling, but he is not. He is a man who dwells upon serious thoughts. As a boy he dwelt upon serious thoughts. As a fetus in his mother's womb he was prone, quite likely, to serious ruminations, while his lighthearted brother simply enjoyed spinning and kicking in the watery gloom. People change in some ways as they grow; in other ways they don't.
Maybe that's the nub of it, he thinks. Maybe that's where all the problems started between himself and his brother — himself and his mother — himself and his father. With two unborn souls, spinning or brooding in the watery wet, waiting for the unforgiving light of their first morning.
There is something in that, some truth waiting to be grasped like a teat in an infant's hand. But like that teat, the truth is too large and unwieldy for the old man's grip, and when he clutches at it, it bounces to one side, slipping heavily from his fingers. And whatever lies beyond Cain's vague sense of disquiet slips away as well.
He is old and gets distracted easily. When the idea is gone he doesn't bother to follow it, and soon forgets it altogether.
* * *
This evening Cain appears calm but he his not. His terror is that of a tiny boy dropped from a great height during a thunderstorm while vultures pluck his flesh. His stomach feels slightly out of kilter, down where his intestines should be. This makes his midriff hurt. It makes his back and his loins and his molars hurt. Was this how his brother felt as the life hurtled from his body, or did he feel something else entirely? Rage for example or bewilderment, or perhaps an overwhelming grief that blotted out all else with enormous reptilian wings?
Cain tucks his chin against his clavicle, shuts his eyes tight, and tries to keep the world at bay. Outside, his grandson Irad cackles as the children play some game involving rocks and noise. He is, he thinks, almost ready to leave this place behind forever. Almost eager, in fact.
So behold him there: Cain lying alone in the hut, thinking back on his life, tallying it up. Waiting to die.CHAPTER 2
Lately something strange has been happening to Cain: he has been having conversations with his dead brother. In the early morning, during the rift between sleep and consciousness, Abel appears in the hut, squatting at the foot of Cain's sleeping mat, cracking his knuckles or picking his teeth. — And how is it with you lately? he likes to ask. His voice is colorless, like the air.
Abel has been gone fifty years now, and Cain is a jumpy, scared old man.
These visitations terrify him, but the terror precludes any violent outcry. He does not command Spirit begone! or Out with you, shade! or any of a dozen other entreaties that cram into his mouth. Fear commands that he lie half-groggy on his mat and converse civilly with his long-murdered brother. So he replies, I am well enough.
— That's good to hear, nods Abel. He says this every time, with the same bland sincerity that used to so curdle Cain's nerves when they were both younger. Just boys really. And alive.
Abel says this every time too: — Soon we'll be reunited. I'm looking forward to it.
Cain says nothing but wonders if this is true. Hopes it is. Fears it is.
Abel's fingers brush against the floor of the hut, leaving no furrows in the sand. He looks no older than the day when Cain pummeled him with a stone and pitched him off a cliff. For that matter there is no sign of the violence of his death. Green eyes flicker from a broad, open face, and a tangle of brown curls caresses his shoulders. He had always been a pretty youth, olive-skinned and dimpled: five decades of extinction has not changed this. Cain grimaces. He is crippled and riven with pain, and sometimes his eyes water with unfairness of it: that Abel should remain eternally young, while Cain must suffer rancid teeth and creaking joints and incontinence and all the rest.
He is fully aware of the absurdity of this.
* * *
Tonight Abel appears for one final visit. — Father appears well, he says, as if Cain has asked. But he hasn't: Cain never asks. He left that family behind long ago, and if he is startled by the longevity of his parents, he doesn't let it show.
— Mother too, Abel continues. — Everyone settled now, with grandchildren, except for the twins who died some time ago.
— I didn't know that.
— Oh yes. Epon and Epna. By the plague, within days of each other. Also Kerod, in childbirth, and the infant as well. A boy.
Cain digests this. The names echo in his memory like rusted bells. He can barely recall their faces, but hadn't Kerod been special to him, once?
— Everyone else is all right, Abel continues. — The other children and that, that — His hand flutters. — Seth. The one who — took my place.
— Yes, I remember your speaking of him, says Cain. The puzzlement in his brother's voice when he mentions Seth is one of Cain's few pleasures these days. — Our parents didn't waste much time in mourning, did they?
Petulant, Abel frowns.
Cain impassively ponders his parents' advanced years. If age weighs so heavily on him, how must they feel? Spent indeed by all accounts. Ready to find a comfortable grave and stretch out. Well, good luck to them. Or perhaps not — perhaps their days are lightened by grandchildren who do not fear to kiss them, by in-laws who do not spurn them, by neighbors who speak their names aloud and not in whispered invocations used to frighten wayward children.
Cain can only imagine such an existence.
Then Abel says, You should go see them.
Anger wells up at that, oozes through Cain like pus. The intensity of it catches him off guard. Those two little words — you should — are like the memory of a slap. — I'm not long for this world, as you well know. And why would I go anyway? Besides to kill him, perhaps. Finish the job I started.
Abel is already starting to vanish. — Don't talk like that.
— Piss off. I'll say what I like.
— For now, brother. For now ...
— Piss off I said!
He is cursing an empty room.
The encounter leaves him trembling, but whether with rage or fear he can't say. Not for the first time he wonders bitterly: Why does it have to be his brother who so visits? Why can't it be his wife? He would give much for a few moments with Zoru again.
Though perhaps — just perhaps — it is better this way.
* * *
No great revelation ever comes from these appearances, no warnings of damnation or promises of redemption. Just a few words, an implicit reminder. A notification as it were.
In a way Cain is grateful for this. There are many damning things his brother could tell him that would bring no joy whatsoever.
* * *
Another memory dogs him lately:
A boy's flickering face, a lupine stranger lit by firelight, leaning eagerly forward. A certain glitter to the eyes as he says, If it wasn't for you, he'd still be alive right now.
Decades ago, this was. The boy had not been speaking of Abel.
— Sitting here talking to you, the wolflike boy had said. — Instead of me.
Recently Cain has grown preoccupied with that conversation and all it implies. This might be why he calls out in his sleep from time to time, Do you forgive me?
There is never any answer, of course — there is no one around to hear him, and even if there were, who would take the responsibility of answering? Maybe this is why Cain always wakes, morning after morning, with a heavy feeling of unutterable sadness in his gut. Heavy and painful, as if he long ago swallowed something unhealthy, and is only now starting to properly digest it.CHAPTER 3
The morning before Cain's last night on earth — the morning before Abel's final appearance — Cain is visited by his son, Henoch. This is expected. This happens every day.
For many years Henoch has been famous as a builder. He is known as the architect of the city in which his family now lives. Stories tell of how he would dream palaces by night and then construct them by day, hard against the wide straight boulevards from his dreams, interspersed with public plazas and watercourses and covered bazaars and temples and a harbor and plenty of plain ordinary homes for the plain ordinary people of his city. Fishermen and traders and husbandmen and so forth. This grand project had taken many years, starting in virtual obscurity but, as he labored and word of his glorious city spread, attracting all manner of men like gnats to a campfire. Some of these men brought their families and settled in the city and added their skills and industry to its glory. Some of them, predictably, were rabble who added nothing but had much to say.
Henoch was not a boastful man or a proud one but apparently he saw little point in hiding his light under a bushel. So when he completed building his city, he retired from the sight of men for many days to think on its proper name, before finally deciding on: Henoch.
This caused no small amount of glee among the rabble.
— Henoch? they cried. — He's named the city after himself? What, are all his children named Henoch too?
— And his wife! giggled one.
— And his goats! snickered another.
— And his mother! brayed a third. — And his father too!
At this they fell silent. Everyone knew who Henoch's father was. No city, regardless of its charm and wonder, could outshine the shadows of that notoriety. No boulevards, no matter how flawless, could make straight a lineage that crooked. No city need ever be named Cain to ensure that name's preservation for posterity.
— Well anyway, snorted the rabble after it took a moment to collect itself. — Naming it Henoch, there's presumption for you.
The mystery was: Where was Henoch's father, anyway? Henoch himself was visible everywhere during those years, sweating through the long humid days, planing boards and firing bricks and carving stone and laying cobbles. A big man with arms as wide as most men are tall. Muscles rippling under his shoulders like angry snakes. He would have intimidated people but for his laugh, which set other men at ease and caused women to wonder why their husbands were not so. Henoch laughed often and liked to remark that this lifted more burdens than his shoulders ever could.
His mother Zoru had died years before, taken off by the plague. People well remembered his grief at that: it had been epic, and all construction had halted for the better part of a year. During that time Henoch's booming laugh went unheard.
But the old man? No one knew where he'd gone, though rumors abounded that he'd long ago been banished east, east. But east was here, where Henoch had built his city. And so the mystery remained.
What neither the rabble nor the upright citizens knew was that Henoch the man had not designed Henoch the city. Cain had done so, from his hidden lair. Henoch had merely carried out his instructions. The boulevards and bazaars and palaces and plazas were all Cain's doing. His motivation for this he kept to himself, though Henoch enjoyed the work well enough and could not deny that it had brought him prosperity as well as an unexpected closeness to his moody, difficult father.
The project lasted many years, until one morning Henoch was informed by Cain: — Enough. I am done. Let them finish the rest without me.
— All right, said the son.
Cain went on, There remains only the matter of a name for this place. I have thought long on the subject and have decided it will be named for you.
Henoch's braying laughter was reminiscent of a kid goat. — Eh?
— The city, his father explained gravely, shall be named Henoch.
Henoch laughed even harder. — What rubbish.
Cain's expression was that of a man in middling discomfort. — Nonetheless.
— Father, you can't expect me to go out there and announce to the whole city that they're to be named after me. What will people think?
Cain met Henoch's grinning face with a severe look of his own. — I have long since stopped caring what others think, he said. — Of me, or of anything else.
* * *
This morning Henoch visits his father in his hut in the family compound. Henoch tried for years to convince his father to quit his self-imposed exile and move into the family rooms, but the old man is stubborn as a tortoise and half as expressive. Finally the boy gave up.
Cain refuses the breakfast Henoch brings this morning, saying, I may die tonight.
— So may we all, laughs his son. His expression suggests that the idea does not trouble him greatly — that he would, in fact, take it as something of a lark.
Cain furrows his brows. This glibness of his son has always puzzled him, but a voice in his ear whispers, Let it go.
Henoch is a busy man and Cain knows this. Even with construction ended, there are many demands on his time as first citizen. Crops must be sowed and woodland cleared; merchants approaching from the west must be met and assessed. Disputes over property and marriage and inheritance need settling. There is much assuaging of tempers and coddling of egos. Some days there is time for his father's indulgent grimness, but this is not one of those days.
Cain does not judge Henoch harshly. Hundreds of times over the years, father has greeted son by mumbling: I may die tonight. There is no way for the boy to know that, this morning of all mornings, the words are true.
Now Henoch says, A caravan approaches from the west.
Cain shrugs as if this gossip is of no concern. The whiskers of his beard nearest his mouth and chin have yellowed with age. As a younger man his hair and beard were yellow as sunlight: it looks almost as if Cain's younger self has returned after a long absence.
— Perhaps they bring that strange fiber with them, says Henoch. — What do they call it? Cotton.
Cain grunts something noncommittal.
— It's good for clothes, Henoch continues breezily. When Cain has no answer, he tries again. — This dry spell continues undiminished. The farmers grow concerned about the sowing.
Cain responds as a piece of stone might. Or not so much: even quartz glitters and opal changes as light falls upon them. But his eyes remain pale blue and static as he gazes past the entryway into the morning sky, also pale blue and static. There is no moisture in the air, no promise of rain later. For this time of year, such weather is unusual.
Henoch's good cheer falters. He stops talking and instead pokes at his teeth with a piece of straw.
Excerpted from Fallen by David Maine. Copyright © 2005 David Maine. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsBook One The Murder,
40. The Old Man,
39. The Brother,
38. The Son,
37. Thirty Years Previous,
36. The Mistake,
35. The Proposal,
34. The Strangers,
33. The Years Previous,
32. The Conversation,
31. The Murder,
Book Two The Brother,
30. The Murder,
29. The Girl,
28. Some Weeks Previous,
27. The Old Man,
26. The Stranger,
25. The Conversations,
24. The Previous Two Years,
23. The Judgment,
22. The Offering,
21. The Proposal,
Book Three The Family,
20. The Proposal,
19. The Previous Winter,
18. The Mistake,
17. The Abomination,
16. The Conversation,
15. Two Summers Previous,
14. The Years,
13. The Second Son,
12. The Previous Murder,
11. The Arrival,
Book Four The Fall,
10. The Arrival,
9. The Son,
8. Two Years Previous,
7. The Gifts,
6. The Years,
5. The Previous Spring,
4. The Murder,
3. The Conversation,
2. That First Morning,
1. The Old Man,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story of Cain and Abel told backwards. Begins with Cain as an old man works back to Adam and Eve's first night outside Eden. So smart and readable and funny in parts.
This book was quite possibly the best biblical fiction book I have read in the past few years. Fallen is the story of Cain and Abel, and alternately, Adam and Eve. The book begins with the ending and cleverly winds it's way back to the beginning, with the body of the story told in shifting time-lines. Maine brilliantly manages to keep the story line comprehensive and lucid. I was very struck by the spare, yet visceral language throughout the book, and the motivations of the characters were portrayed extremely well. I raced ahead to finish the book, all the while trying to slow myself down so there was more to savor. Though the story is familiar to most, the nuances and subtleties that were infused throughout the book made this a one of a kind story, one where even though the outcome is predicted, the road getting there is anything but.Most know the infamous story of the two brothers, Cain and Abel, but what is portrayed here is so much more. Maine has managed to take small snippets of those famous verses in the Bible and make them delectably consumable, and downright wonderful. Cain is portrayed as a difficult and tractable young man, bordering on heretical. He is forever feeling slighted and wronged, and his attitude only makes things more difficult for himself. It is hard to find sympathy for Cain; he is virtually unlovable, and remains so for the entirety of the novel. It becomes easy to see him follow his path from anger to murder. Even in his exile, he curses and berates God, making him seem all the more recalcitrant and miserable. His reflections upon himself and his inherent differences from his family are captivating, and make him a full and interesting character.Abel, on the other hand is wonderfully compliant, kind and friendly. Though he tends towards platitudes and bossiness, the goodness in him shines through. Abel, his mother's favored child, strives for peace in the family, and is usually the one to try and persuade Cain to abandon his fits of pique. He is loving and forgiving, and he is truly humble to the Lord. He is constantly trying to find his brother's heart and make him see reason. It is clear to see that Abel is light to Cain's darkness. The insight gained regarding Abel's unselfish love for his brother make Cain's act all the more incomprehensible. Though Abel is more of a simple man, his devotion to his family and his God are very moving.As the story moves forward, the focus is on Adam and Eve and their flight to safety after being banished from the Garden of Eden. It is a sorrowful trek that visits many misfortunes and hardships upon the two. Everything that could possibly go wrong for them does so from the beginning. Adam's staunch belief in the Lord pulls him through the struggles, and makes him accepting of any travail that comes their way. Eve is not always so emotionally compliant. There are scenes in which she doubts the intentions and safeguarding of God, and in these moments, Maine has cleverly elaborated on what can only be speculated upon. The awareness of the characters was also a great touch. These fictional characters see themselves as we would see ourselves today, their hopes, fears and dreams are fully realized within the story, and the effect is that all the characters are living, breathing and thinking entities who can be understood and appreciated.At the close of the book, the story has finally come around to the beginning. God has banished the couple from paradise for their sin, and they are left wondering how and where they will survive. The fear they feel is perceptible, and their reactions to it recognizable. This story has been heard countless times before, yet what is different this time around is the cognizance of the sinners. It is so much clearer to imagine, in this novel, who and what Adam and Eve were like, and what they were thinking. By making them so human, the author has made them so much more plausible and believable. One can imagine feeling the same way today if one
New twist on Adam & Eve's fall from grace. Worth reading.
This story of Cain & Abel & Adam & Eve (after their banishment from The Garden of Eden) is necessarily even more imaginative than The Preservationist, because there's so much less detail in the biblical account. This one, with its more serious themes of fratricide & banishment & disinheritance (both God's of Adam & Eve & theirs of Cain), lacks much of the humor that was integral to The Preservationist, but it has the same wit & keen insight couched in the same spare, precise prose. Here the story is told backwards, with each chapter (40 of them, a good biblical number) about a time preceding the previous one. Through the characters' memories, Maine skillfully drops hints about earlier events but also introduces surprising developments in nearly every chapter. And his method heightens our sense as readers of how events shape later events.
Loved it. As with all of David Maine's books (to date) this is the story of Cain and Abel (as well as Adam and Eve) told backwards, from Cain's death to the beginning of man. I love his work, and his mind, and his writing! I really enjoyed how when Cain, Abel, Adam or Eve tell "their" story -- it is from their perspective, which adds richly to the novel. Maine has a unique and wonderful way of writing, and of seeing the world.
A modern retelling of the story of Adam and Eve¿told in reverse order starting with Chapter 40 which describes Cain¿s last night on earth and ends with Chapter 1 which tells of Adam and Eve¿s first night outside the Garden. There are 4 sections: Book 1, ¿The Murder,¿ tells of Cain¿s life after the murder ending with a short paragraph of ¿The Murder¿ (Chapter 31); Book 2, ¿The Brother,¿ starts with ¿The Murder¿ from Abel¿s aspect and moves backward to tell of the life of Cain and Abel told from Abel¿s point of view and includes God¿s acceptance of Abel¿s sacrifice and rejection of Cain¿s ending with ¿The Proposal¿ that Adam makes to make an offering to God; Book 3, ¿The Family,¿ starts with ¿The Proposal¿ from Adam¿s point of view and tell the story of the family back to the birth of Cain; Book 4, ¿The Fall,¿ describes Adam and Eve¿s adjustment to their new life immediately after the expulsion from the Garden, from Eve¿s point of view. One of the intriguing things to me when I first picked up this book was the arrangement of the chapters and the chapter titles which seem to recur and revolve, rather like the poetic form of a Villanelle. This is one of the best books I¿ve ever read based on a Bible story. So much of it rings exactly true (especially why God rejected Cain¿s sacrifice¿best explanation I¿ve ever seen). It would make a great discussion book for anyone interested in Adam and Eve¿or even just a discussion about families.
Not too impressed with this one, though it was quick enough that I finished it in one day. It's one of those books whose premise sounds interesting, but ends up lacking a little something in the execution. As you might have guessed from the title, it's the story of the Biblical first family. The twist is that it's told back to front; it starts with Cain as an old man and goes back through time to the moment that Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden. The story just felt flat to me; it didn't add much to or change my perspective on the story that I already knew.Maybe my hopes were just too high for this one, but it was a disappointment.
Most current fiction is thriller, terrorist topic oriented. This story is very different. Even if you are not a biblical scholar, you can appreciate the story as just that-a good story. If you are convinced of the veracity of the Bible story, it gives you some unique points of view.
Fallen is David Maine's spare but stylish retelling of the stories of Cain & Abel and Adam & Eve. Proceeding in reverse chronological order from the end of Cain's life to the exile of his parents from the Garden of Eden, this is an intriguing, moving and sometimes hilarious profile of the first dysfunctional family. We can recognize the characters as people we know, people like ourselves and our families. The novelist has immense sympathy for the quirks and failings of his very human characters as well as a keen appreciation of the humor ¿and the poignancy ¿ of the human condition. This Midrashic 'take' on Genesis is highly original and highly entertaining, as well as theologically sound. Having read it through once, I was unable to resist reading it through again ¿ immediately, just in case I missed some early bits of the satire (wonderful one-liners!) or some of the persuasive psychological insight. Even during the second reading, I found myself laughing aloud at times. Fallen is quite a remarkable performance. I look forward to reading Maine's next. book -- soon.
Maine's book is very thought provoking and gives reader a history with an original flavor! Its lucid and intriguing - full of human, everyday life emotions, that are out of bounds for us to discuss as these 'people' are sacred....but we forget that they were human too. Excellent work! Two thumbs up!