October 4, 2009

Havah: The Story of Eve

Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
Religious Fiction
2008 NavPress
Finished on 9/21/09
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Product Description

Eve, exiled to a life outside paradise, nears death. As she waits, she recounts the story of her creation and a cruel existence. Revisit the birth of humankind through the eyes of the first woman ever to live.

From the Back Cover

Created, not born.

The world's first woman, without flaw until one fateful decision. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve—the woman first known as Havah.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tosca Lee not once, but twice this year. She was one of the authors signing at the Barnes & Noble author event in June. I was a bit distracted with greeting friends and family at my husband's table, and only briefly had a chance to say hello to Tosca before the signing began. I did get the chance to mention that I and several other employees were in a book club and perhaps we could read her book and maybe have her come to the discussion. I suggested the idea to the group shortly after the signing and everyone agreed it would not only be an interesting read, but fun to invite an author to our meeting. I got in touch with Tosca and, as luck would have it, she would be returning from a trip the night before and would be able to come to our meeting.

Everyone was thrilled with the news and eagerly bought their copies and started reading. My sister-in-law mentioned how easily she was drawn into the story, luxuriating in the lyrical prose and enjoying the lushness of Tosca's language. I decided to hold off beginning until the week before the meeting so all the details would be fresh in my mind. As soon as I finished Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, I settled in with a glass of wine and my copy of Havah, anxious to see what Jen meant about "feeling drunk on Tosca's prose." I read and read, slowly beginning to feel a sense of foreboding. I was not feeling drawn in, nor drunk on her words. Maybe I needed another glass of wine? I read some more and decided to set it aside until the next day. Maybe I was just tired. Yikes! Of all the books to feel this way about, it had to be the one in which the author was invited to visit our book club! I couldn't not read the book! So, I continued on later the following evening and guess what? (Well, if you saw the rating above, you'd know how this story ends.) I fell in love with Havah! As soon as "the adam" and Havah were cast out of Eden, the story suddenly became not only more readable but spellbinding. I couldn't put it down. I found myself wanting to stop and reread Genesis. I wanted a companion guide. I wanted to ask Tosca dozens of questions. I couldn't wait for book club! What a book!

Side note: Isn't it interesting that so many of the books that I've read over the years that have turned out to be huge favorites were those that I was tempted to give up on? Atonement. Life of Pi. The Book Thief. To think I might have missed out on some incredibly good books had I not persevered. There's a lesson there.

But back to the book. Did I say I loved it? I did! So much so that the minute I finished it I was overcome by the desire to sit right back down and start reading it from the beginning all over again. Unfortunately, I needed to finish making the risotto cakes I had planned to take to book club. And write up some questions to ask. And walk the dog. And feed my husband. So no rereading for now. However, this is one of those books that will remain on my "keeper shelf" until I do have time to sit down and revisit Havah and Adam and their children (Oh. My. Gosh. SO many children!).

This is the time of our exile that I remember with the most fondness—when my first children ate of an earth where God once walked, reared on sheep's milk and goat cheese and honey.

True, the stench of soiled baby napkins was everywhere so that even Reut was no longer curious about these things. And when I wasn't in the midst of cleaning up some sodden or stinking mess, it seem one child or another was always demanding something to eat from breast of hearth. But at night as I lay surrounded by the soft breathing of tiny chests, by the smells of baby curls stuck to warm foreheads, and the familiar form of the exhausted adam smelling of sweat and wild wheat beside me, I was content.

I think I can speak for everyone in my book club and say that we had one of the best meetings since the formation of the club almost two years ago! Tosca not only chatted about Havah, her writing routine, her current work in progress, her favorite authors, and her new publishing contract, but she answered all of our questions for well over two hours. I would like to go into more detail about the discussion, but since I'm planning to post an interview in the coming months, I think I'll hold off on any more specifics.

I look forward to reading Lee's upcoming novel, the story of Judas (a first-person narrative!), as well as her first work, Demon: A Memoir. For someone who has never read (nor been interested in) religious fiction, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. Tosca Lee is a consummate storyteller and fans of The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) and perhaps even those of The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean Auel) are sure to enjoy this beautifully crafted novel.

Be sure to visit Tosca's website, particularly the "author notes" and "news" found here.


  1. Kim Kenney9:18 AM

    After reading your review of HAVAH, I want to go back and reread it as well! I loved the sensory draw as Tosca described the Garden of Eden as well as the emotional draw upon exile. Those who enjoyed The Red Tent, will surely love Havah! I can't wait to read Judas. Tosca is an amazing lady!

  2. Oooh, that sounds terrific and what fun to have the author come to your meeting! I'm glad you did manage to get into the book. It would have been hard to dislike the book with the author visiting, but I have a feeling she would have understood. Did you manage to ask her if she's named after the opera Tosca?

  3. Kim - Well, I owe it to you for bringing Havah (and Tosca) to my attention! Now that I've read the book and understand that she intended for the introductory chapters to have sumptuous and lush language, I am eager to go back and reread that portion, if not the entire book. I loved her portrayal of all the characters, but most especially that of Eve and her relationship with Adam. I can't wait to read Judas, either!

  4. First of all, I WANT TO BE IN YOUR BOOK CLUB! Secondly, I can imagine myself having difficulty getting into that book myself. I'm not a great fan of the Bible/characters re-invisioned. I really disliked The Red Tent, didn't even finish it which as you know is hard for me to do: abandon a book. But, I didn't read The Life of Pi, either, and perhaps I've done myself a great disservice. It's interesting to me that you mentioned finishing the book and then loving it. I guess that's why I force myself to finish what I pick up, on the chance that I may be missing something wonderful.

  5. Anonymous12:01 PM

    OK, you hooked me. Happily, it is available as a Kindle edition. I just ordered it.

    A first person narrative of Judas would be quite intriguing as well. Thanks for the review and I'm glad your group had such a good visit with the author.

  6. Wow!! What a great book club you have and to be able to have the author there....would be awesome. This book sounds like a wonderful read and one that I may have to pick up for myself some day.

  7. Whoooo, I was worried for a minute. I was hooked just about a novel about Eve. I'm so glad it turned out wonderfully. (Compared to The Book Thief and Life of Pi, high praise indeed) Like Bellezza, I did not like The Red Tent, but I'm definitely adding this one to the list.

  8. This sounds good, actually! I must go add it to the wish list!

  9. Anonymous8:23 PM

    Great review, Les! You're right, Tosca is a fantastic storyteller and I can't wait for her next book.


  10. Nancy - She was a wonderful guest and so interesting to listen to. She's very down-to-earth and has a great sense of humor. I can't remember where I read it, but I do believe she was named after the opera. I'll have to remember to ask her.

    Bellezza - I wish you could be in my book club, too!! We have so much fun. I think the chemistry of the group works well because we didn't all know each other when we got together. There are friends of friends, as well as coworkers and relatives. I think it helps that we don't all hang out together outside of the meetings. Anyhow, it's been a blast.

    As far as Havah, I still think you might enjoy it. I thought of both you and Nancy (Bookfool) as I was reading, wondering if you'd be interested in the book.

    I usually try to give every book I read a fair chance, but I don't force myself to finish everything. I'm not sure at what point I just know it's worth continuing on with or pitching in the discard pile. Just a gut feeling, I guess.

    Kay - You're another reader I thought might enjoy this book. Yay for Kindle!! Glad it's available for you. Let me know what you think.

    Staci - It really is a great book club. We read such a variety of books and our discussions are always lively and thought-provoking. Plus, we always have great munchies and wine. :)

    I highly recommend this book and would love to hear your thoughts. Hope you give it a read.

    Framed - I'm glad to hear that you're going to give this one a read in spite of disliking The Red Tent. You know, I liked the first part of The Red Tent, but thought it dragged on too long. I should look through my journals and see what my final thoughts and rating were.

    Kailana - Definitely! It's a winner!

    Jen - Thanks! You and me both. And we should definitely pick Demon for another book club read sometime next year.


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