Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Alone in Eden

Author: Stephen R. Pastore

Publisher: Cohort Press
ISBN: 0-9777196-0-X

Commencing in the pristine Garden of Eden, then moving quickly to the tragic event of Original Sin and its consequences for subsequent human history, Pastore’s tale explores cosmological, theological and anthropological questions that have puzzled humankind since the beginning of time.

The story is narrated by Traveler, the first-born son of Adam and Eve. Traveler’s idyllic life changes forever when he witnesses his parents eating fruit from the forbidden tree. Having run away from the horrific scene, Traveler awakens one day to find himself and his small dog, Zas, alone in a cave. An angel explains that his parents have been banished from the Garden and that Traveler and Zas will have to make their own way in a dramatically altered world.

Having once played freely with all sorts of creatures in the Garden, Traveler is disappointed to discover that many animals now fear him. Moreover, in the newly ordered world, many creatures must hunt and consume flesh in order to survive. These and countless other contrasts with his former life give Traveler many occasions for deliberation. Note, for example, what Traveler says about freedom and responsibility:

Where life in the Garden had no pattern
and my parents and I could follow
or not follow our whims and all things were provided . . .
life in the Valley required a routine
and tasks needed to be performed. . . .
I realized that I had control over my own life
but with that control came duty (p. 56).

When the adult Traveler falls in love, he gains this insight into relationships:

Earthly love must never supercede my devotion to God,
not because God wanted to be loved above all others,
but because God did not want me to lose my self, my soul,
which was his greatest gift, for love of another.
Such love is not love, but obsession.
And in obsession we surrender our free will (p. 139).

Upon discovering ancient dinosaur bones, Traveler and his son reach this conclusion regarding evolution:

When the earth was created . . . [God] knew that the earth would be forever changing and that for life to continue as part of His plan, it must adapt

to the world or be forever lost (pp. 160-161).

These few quotes provide just a small sample of the many philosophical and theological concepts Pastore explores throughout his tale. Even though Pastore has clothed his ideas in the robe of fantasy, this book should not be regarded as mere entertainment. Pastore has packed more profound ideas into this story than many preachers pack into a year’s worth of sermons. While the reader probably will not agree with all of Pastore’s views, he or she should enjoy wrestling with them.

Alone in Eden is beautifully written. Traveler’s voice and tone are perfectly suited for his character and Pastore’s lush descriptions pull the reader fully into the scene. The story is well-paced and it never loses momentum. My one criticism is that Traveler is too far removed from much of the action. He witnesses much evil, yet always manages to avoid engaging in conflict himself. Traveler is wise, patient and sympathetic, yet somehow aloof. Nevertheless, he does successfully draw and hold the reader in the story.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys spiritual fantasy. If you like the works of C.S. Lewis, you’ll probably enjoy Alone in Eden.

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