Even if you don’t know much of the Bible, you know this story: Adam, Eve, the Garden of Eden, the serpent, the apple, banishment by God—familiar, yet so ancient as to be utterly strange. But the account from Genesis of Adam and Eve has much to tell the 21st-century reader about love, family and equality, writes Bruce Feiler.
In The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us, Feiler aims to show why Adam and Eve still matter, diving into their story through a wide range of sources. As in his books Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths and Walking the Bible (and its companion PBS series), Feiler visits experts and pertinent sites on multiple continents, from the purported Garden of Eden in Iraq and Adam’s tomb in Jerusalem to the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel and John Milton’s cottage outside London. Feiler’s style is chatty, and he builds an argument by setting a surprising scene (now he’s in Mae West’s archive! What could that have to do with Adam and Eve?), dropping back to describe a particular aspect of Adam and Eve’s story, then returning to the more contemporary scene to reveal more. Some unexpected but compelling detours include visits with Mary Shelley, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway, all of whom spun their own interpretations of Adam and Eve. One of Feiler’s key conclusions? Eve is Adam’s equal and partner, not his inferior.
The First Love Story serves as a kind of relationship book, too; each chapter illuminates an aspect of Adam and Eve’s experience, which Feiler then applies to modern relationships. He concludes with six principles, or “What Adam and Eve Taught Me About Relationships”—covenant, connectedness, counterbalance, constancy, care and co-narration. “This is what I took from Adam and Eve,” Feiler writes. “Love is a story we tell with another person. And as with them, the telling never ends.”