Story tells us, importantly, surprisingly, who we are. It’s not a cookbook – it’s a mirror. Stories can become so embedded in us that we no longer see them such. We lose their complexity and texture in the blur of everyday recognition. Adam and Eve, for example, are mythic, unforgettable figures.
But the paradoxical reality of their mythic existence overshadows what is really important. Bruce Feiler sets the story straight with his brilliantly insightful book The First Love Story: Adam, Eve, and Us. As “first humans,” Adam and Eve are both impossible and impossibly important. As exemplars of human love and characters, their love story quite literally creates this world. It is imprinted upon our souls.
Feiler’s an energetic writer and host for what proves to be a whirlwind trip around the world as discovered in the stories told about the story of Adam and Eve. We meet Yossi Garfinkel, who suggests, “Adam and Eve symbolize the movement from hunter-gatherers to village life.” And we are off, as Feiler digs just deep enough to let readers explore with him the many implications of the stories behind the names we see in the mirror each morning.
We learn for example, that there are two different versions of the creation myth itself. “The fact that there are two versions of the narrative reinforces this notion that life is fundamentally about creative tension,” he writes. “Creation is cocreation.” And yes, creation, as in birth and a woman’s place in the world, are central in this story. Adam and Eve, the author is quick to point out, is a story that’s been used by the Church for centuries to keep women in what the men who ran the Church thought to be their places.
The stories that Feiler uses to bring his theme alive are as fascinating and diverse as humanity itself. Yes, you can bet he travels to the unimposing spot in Iraq that corresponds to the Garden of Eden. But the real discoveries are those that unpack the true and eternally relevant complexity from the Adam and Even myth. There are a lot of twists and turns in that story, and a lot of concerns; sexuality, obviously, but temperance, grief, change, aging, it’s all there. The power of this book is that once you read it, you’ll see the fingerprints of the Adam and eve story all around you.
Moreover, you will see the story inside your own life. The Adam and Eve narrative is where we all both begin and end. Don’t think that this book is something it is not. It has no and needs no agenda. The First Love Story is of course universal. But how we understand it is ever so personal. It is up to us to discover the first love story, every time we fall in love.
Bruce Feiler has, as he describes it, the ideal job. He waits at the kitchen table for stories, and yes they come to him, and yes, we are lucky enough that he’s able to identify and research them, so as to write wonderful engaging books about stuff we all see from the kitchen table but generally don’t have either the time or the talent to write about. He is every interviewer’s, interview listener’s and reader’s dream. He knows his stuff, and he knows how not to give away the store. Here’s the short version; follow this link to download or listen below.
And here’s our complete conversation, wherein our writer has too much fun.