While we don’t post much about works of fiction, we make exceptions when . . . well, whenever we feel like it. So this is an interview with Anna Lindsay, whose work, Eden Undone, was released back in January and is an interesting take on Genesis based on the simple question: “What if Eve had said ‘no'”?
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your spiritual journey.
I’m probably best described as a pedigree mongrel: born in Belgium, grew up in Italy, half English, half Swiss… (that’s the simplified version) Consequently, I belong everywhere and nowhere, and “being in this world but not of this world” perhaps resonates more than it otherwise might. That background might also have contributed to my abiding love of real (Swiss, of course) chocolate!
In other ways too, my spiritual journey is perhaps slightly unconventional. I come from a non-Christian family, but my closest friend has always been God, and I grew up reading CS Lewis’ Narnia series times beyond counting. I chose to be confirmed at 14, yet only started reading the bible several years later…
My father used to intone that one could always recognise Christians from two miles down the road because they’re the ones who never smiled. But he had followed convention sufficiently to have me christened as a baby, and never interfered when I gravitated towards any opportunity to hear about God. However, since neither I, nor years later my mother, fitted his image of dour Christians, he was left rather perplexed.
After graduation from Cambridge, I made the “mistake” of asking God where He wanted me (meaning: which nice high-paying City job to accept) and was rather taken aback (read: I came up with every conceivable excuse for why I couldn’t possibly go, and no sooner did I find a new excuse, He’d squash that one flat too, until I finally gave in…) when instead He sent me to Hong Kong to work with Jackie Pullinger and her ministry among the drug addicts – which of course turned into two years which I wouldn’t swap for all the world.
And since then too, His path for me seems to have skirted the conventional life-route for people… but too long to recount here, methinks!
2. Give us a brief synopsis of the storyline of the book.
Take the biblical tale of Creation. And then ask . . . what if Eve . . . had said no? Would evil have given up or would it instead have carried on, scheming, waiting to pounce? And what then? From that joy-filled world where the lion lies down with the lamb, where we are in perfect relationship with Glory and where there is neither death nor sadness nor dissonance . . . how would that Unfallen family, mirroring God’s heart, react to the Fallen – and the other way around?
By imagining a universe in which the Fall is deferred by a generation, the book allows us to go behind the scenes to live and experience the events and characters of Genesis 1-4 from the inside, rather than reading about them from the outside. From first temptation to eventual fall, and the unravelling of relationship leading to that first, most shocking, conclusion, and the grace which follows, we smile, laugh, wince, mourn and rejoice with those inhabiting those days. What might it really have been like before the Fall? In practical terms. And after?
Two great Trees. Of Life, and of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Only one forbidden. What happens when the fruit of the forbidden one is eaten? And why?
3. Why did you write this book? What vision or circumstances led you to write it?
If Genesis be literal, then…what would have happened if Eve had said “no”? How could they go from paradise to murder in a single generation? What dynamics lie behind those fractured relationships? What did (and will again) the original unfallen relationship look like?
The question seemed so obvious to me once it had occurred to me, that I was convinced there must be dozens, if not hundreds, of novels exploring it. Since I could not even find a single novel delving into that idea (‘Perelandra’ doesn’t count, since it assumes that evil gave up at first defeat!) and it needed to be written, I did.
4. Who are you trying to reach and why?
Everyone. I believe that this book is intended for all ages and all backgrounds: to my knowledge, it has so far been read by, and blessed, readers aged 8-95 (!) both Christian and non-Christian.
Christians tell me how much its gentle spiritual insights have reawakened a new passion for God, and how much they enjoyed the novel simply as a tale: non-Christians (including Muslims and atheists) have spoken of their surprised enjoyment, and their softening towards the gospel. One of them – a Muslim lady – even then allowed me to pray for her sciatica, which Jesus then relieved right there in the middle of her hair salon.
So I long to see the book being used to touch people’s lives, blessing all those who read it, both Christian and non-Christian, and even leading to transformed paths… Why? Because I believe that it has that potential.
5. What are 1-3 compelling quotes (up to a paragraph each) from the book you think really capture the heart of this book?
That’s quite a challenge! Do I go for the funny bits or the “deeper” bits? Hmmm… capturing the heart of this book… How about these:
1) ‘I planted it,’ He said. ‘For you. Do you like it?’
There were no words. Words aren’t sufficient for the first glimpse of beauty, first breath of awe. Only the heart that fills until it feels as if it could explode from joy.
Only a nod, and the heart that leapt.
2) Not a replica of him. Not a rival. No.
This… this she… was… part of him, his perfect complement, as he was hers. Every fibre of his being knew, now, what Glory had meant: this she was… his partner. Bone of his bones, flesh of his flesh: perfect in her own right as he was in his, and yet together they… together they were greater than the sum of their parts. Woman.
3) ‘Are they going to be alright?’ they’d asked Glory, and in the same way that He’d responded to that question years before, when Snake had brought the first Consequence upon himself, so now He replied gently, ‘That’s up to them to choose. We cannot force another’s heart choices. We can only love them.’
4) Then she set off, step steady and tail held high, to go out from Eden, out from the Garden, to serve with joyful sacrifice the Fallen Humans who needed reminding of unconditional love.
Love meets us where we are, not simply where we should be. She did not look back.