Review by Helen_Combe -- First Family by Alice Langholt

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Helen_Combe
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Review by Helen_Combe -- First Family by Alice Langholt

Post by Helen_Combe » 14 Jan 2019, 07:33

[Following is a volunteer review of "First Family" by Alice Langholt.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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First Family by Alice Langholt is a retelling of Genesis from the Bible. I have to admit to having reservations when I first saw this book. Initially, I thought it was a biography of the Trumps (the horror!), and then I realised it was the story of the actual first family, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel; one of my least favourite stories in the Bible. I feel I need to warn potential readers of this review, that I am a nonbeliever and some of my opinions may give offence. It’s also extremely difficult to review such a well-known story without giving away spoilers since they are the only bits that people don’t know already, so consider yourself warned.

The reason that I have never liked Genesis is because I felt that it could be summarised into ‘God created the earth and women are the root of all evil and must be subjugated and punished for all time’. My opinion on that front has always been, ‘well that didn’t take long, did it?’

Despite all these caveats, I will say that I loved this book. It is told from everybody’s point of view, including that of God and the snake. Some of the opinions of the protagonists are critical of God, some praise, some blame and some accept. Everybody gets to have a say, and the arguments are very even-handed and believable. There are even some unexpected and amusing phrases like ’there goes the neighbourhood’. I related most strongly to Cain and Eve and I felt her resentment that God never spoke to her, and her feeling that ’God has no use for me’. Adam, on the other hand, received attention from God and remained devout throughout. He mourned the loss of his life of indolence in the garden, while Eve powered ahead, making tools and shearing sheep. Again, it resonates with my own opinion on the question of Eve’s actions, which is, ’did you really want to spend eternity naming sheep? Wouldn’t you rather walk on the moon?’

The book also covers the difficult question of why did God reject Cain’s offering? I’ve always felt that many of the difficulties created in Genesis were caused by favouritism on God’s side. In this retelling, God doesn’t demand a sacrifice, but he does desire credit while giving none to his creations. As Cain says, ’there’s no need to give anyone else the credit. If we didn’t do the work we did, there would be no fruit, no flocks, no wool and no milk’. In this story, God gives his reason to the reader for rejecting Cain’s offering, but his explanation to Cain is as nebulous as in the original. On the other hand, Adam remains adamant that everything that he creates is as a result of God providing the raw materials, so he always thanks God for everything.

The story then focuses on the grief that Adam and Eve feel as they lose both their sons at the same time. They have never encountered death, so Abel’s demise is incomprehensible to them. I felt this part was dealt with beautifully and really brought home the immensity of their loss. The death of Abel in this story allows for more sympathy for Cain than in the way it is told traditionally and makes his punishment all the more cruel.

I felt this book was beautifully written, I only spotted one grammatical mistake where Cain was waiving his arms rather than waving them, so the book must have been professionally edited. The emotions and motivations of everyone concerned were engaging and felt real. Even though I knew the story, I nevertheless found it to be a page-turner because the emotional side of the story was still unchartered waters. I feel that this book could be enjoyed by anybody regardless of their religion because it is a story about people and an exciting one at that. People who enjoy character-driven stories should enjoy this book immensely.

Other than the single error, I have no criticisms of this book and am delighted to award it 4 out of 4 stars.

******
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Post by Shrabastee » 18 Jan 2019, 06:29

Having read and reviewed this book earlier, I share your opinion that this retelling of the Biblical story is mesmerizing. I genuinely loved reading about the different perspectives. I agree that both religious and non-religious readers will find this to their liking. Thanks for the great review, Helen!

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Post by Helen_Combe » 18 Jan 2019, 18:24

Shrabastee wrote:
18 Jan 2019, 06:29
Having read and reviewed this book earlier, I share your opinion that this retelling of the Biblical story is mesmerizing. I genuinely loved reading about the different perspectives. I agree that both religious and non-religious readers will find this to their liking. Thanks for the great review, Helen!
Thank you :tiphat:
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Post by Vscholz » 18 Jan 2019, 22:38

I am so glad you read, reviewed, and enjoyed this book! Eve and Cain are normally portrayed as those at fault without any consideration to their motives or circumstances, but Langholt didn't do that. I think it helps that she has a Jewish background rather than Christian. Thanks for the review!
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Post by Helen_Combe » 19 Jan 2019, 09:23

Vscholz wrote:
18 Jan 2019, 22:38
I am so glad you read, reviewed, and enjoyed this book! Eve and Cain are normally portrayed as those at fault without any consideration to their motives or circumstances, but Langholt didn't do that. I think it helps that she has a Jewish background rather than Christian. Thanks for the review!
Thank you. I believe that the original mythology was that Adam's partner was Lyta who was his equal and who got edited out and replaced by Eve.
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Post by Vscholz » 19 Jan 2019, 19:05

Helen_Combe wrote:
19 Jan 2019, 09:23
Vscholz wrote:
18 Jan 2019, 22:38
I am so glad you read, reviewed, and enjoyed this book! Eve and Cain are normally portrayed as those at fault without any consideration to their motives or circumstances, but Langholt didn't do that. I think it helps that she has a Jewish background rather than Christian. Thanks for the review!
Thank you. I believe that the original mythology was that Adam's partner was Lyta who was his equal and who got edited out and replaced by Eve.
I have seen her name as Lilith and she was not human, I think. I may be wrong. I remember seeing a painting of her where her lower half is a snake. Women are frequently villainized, even before Eve, and that is tragic. Luckily we live in a time where we are taking a stance to move towards equality. (Remember, feminism is about raising women up, not lowering or demeaning men, to reach equality.)
As for you & your heart & the things you said & didn't say, she will remember them all when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits. (Schmendrick the Magician)

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Post by Helen_Combe » 19 Jan 2019, 21:41

Vscholz wrote:
19 Jan 2019, 19:05
Helen_Combe wrote:
19 Jan 2019, 09:23
Vscholz wrote:
18 Jan 2019, 22:38
I am so glad you read, reviewed, and enjoyed this book! Eve and Cain are normally portrayed as those at fault without any consideration to their motives or circumstances, but Langholt didn't do that. I think it helps that she has a Jewish background rather than Christian. Thanks for the review!
Thank you. I believe that the original mythology was that Adam's partner was Lyta who was his equal and who got edited out and replaced by Eve.
I have seen her name as Lilith and she was not human, I think. I may be wrong. I remember seeing a painting of her where her lower half is a snake. Women are frequently villainized, even before Eve, and that is tragic. Luckily we live in a time where we are taking a stance to move towards equality. (Remember, feminism is about raising women up, not lowering or demeaning men, to reach equality.)
You’re right, I’m currently at a sci fi convention dressed as Lyta Alexander from Babylon 5. Obviously a Freudian slip 🤪
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Post by Taylor Danvers » 05 Feb 2019, 12:45

Those are some strong opinions you hold about the creation story. I hadn't thought of it from your point of view until now. I'd really love to read the author's opinion on why Cain's sacrifice was rejected.
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Post by Helen_Combe » 05 Feb 2019, 15:04

Meaow love wrote:
05 Feb 2019, 12:45
Those are some strong opinions you hold about the creation story. I hadn't thought of it from your point of view until now. I'd really love to read the author's opinion on why Cain's sacrifice was rejected.
I was a bit concerned that I might offend people with my opinion, but having said I didn’t like Genesis, I felt that I would then be asked why.
Thanks for commenting.
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Post by Espie » 20 Feb 2019, 17:47

Your warning is so spot on! You've successfully wiped any need for debate with such already in mind. Each one of us is entitled to our viewpoint, indeed, unless we're forcing it down into someone else's psyche or something of course. I respect yours, too. Thank you for your candid and witty review.
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Post by Lunastella » 20 Feb 2019, 17:58

The reason that I have never liked Genesis is because I felt that it could be summarised into ‘God created the earth and women are the root of all evil and must be subjugated and punished for all time’. My opinion on that front has always been, ‘well that didn’t take long, did it?’


I totally agree. However, I applaud your decision to read this book with an open mind, even as a nonbeliever. I think reading the story from different perspectives must enrich a lot the perspective we get and make it much more complete.
I commend the honesty of your review, thank you!

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Post by BelleReadsNietzsche » 20 Feb 2019, 21:59

This is a compelling recommendation of this book ! I love the take on Eve you describe. Thanks also for being so open and honest in your review also; that’s not always comfortable on a website with many different backgrounds and perspectives, but it’s relevant for how this story worked for you. Great review!
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Post by shereads shereads » 20 Feb 2019, 22:06

This is a great review and makes me want to read the book. I always love Bible retellings, and this one sounds like it does a good job of it altering the events as told in the Bible while presenting a different point of view.

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Post by Helen_Combe » 21 Feb 2019, 01:49

Espie wrote:
20 Feb 2019, 17:47
Your warning is so spot on! You've successfully wiped any need for debate with such already in mind. Each one of us is entitled to our viewpoint, indeed, unless we're forcing it down into someone else's psyche or something of course. I respect yours, too. Thank you for your candid and witty review.
Thank you very much :tiphat:
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Post by Helen_Combe » 21 Feb 2019, 01:51

Lunastella wrote:
20 Feb 2019, 17:58
The reason that I have never liked Genesis is because I felt that it could be summarised into ‘God created the earth and women are the root of all evil and must be subjugated and punished for all time’. My opinion on that front has always been, ‘well that didn’t take long, did it?’


I totally agree. However, I applaud your decision to read this book with an open mind, even as a nonbeliever. I think reading the story from different perspectives must enrich a lot the perspective we get and make it much more complete.
I commend the honesty of your review, thank you!
Thank you very much :tiphat:
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