Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Christian Fiction Book Club Discussion: Havah by Tosca Lee

The September book club pick was Havah by Tosca Lee. Participants read the novel and chose one or more discussion questions from Tosca Lee's website to address in a blog post. Come join our discussions!

A short book review:

The language and the imagery in this book is truly amazing.

Tosca Lee describes the love and the passion of living with the mate God designed for you in the Garden full of every wondrous thing so vividly, that when Havah was banished and distanced from The One, I felt the loss myself.

I liked the creative additions that she gave the story, the idea that humans might have had a sixth sense in the Garden which was lost after the banishment. This is definitely a work of fiction, but I appreciate the uniqueness of the story.

There were some scenes I found uncomfortable which I discuss in more detail below. This novel is more literary than I typically read. It's not a high action, page turner of a story. It's more of a slow simmer with lots of thought provoking layers. It made the perfect book club pick.

My rating:

(SPOILER ALERT: This post continues with a frank discussion of the book.)

The discussion question:

Why did God seem so distant from Havah?

I think someone who has communed with God so intimately as Havah in the Garden of Eden would find any separation from Him almost unbearable. But also, God had not sent the Holy Spirit yet, so I wonder if that was part of the reason for the feeling of distance.

But when I read this novel, even as a born again Christian, it illuminated my own distance from God and I longed (like Havah longed) to be even closer to Him. By the end of the novel, when Havah dies, I was sobbing. Not from sadness, but from joy that she finally gets to commune with Him again the way He intended.

And I loved the last line of the book. Because I imagine that's what being in His presence will be like- waking up from a dull, unclear dream to see everything more clearly and perfectly than we've ever imagined.

What are your thoughts?

Further discussion on discomfort levels:

One of my blog friends mentioned she couldn't finish this story because of too much adult imagery. I'd like to discuss our tipping points.

I am a self proclaimed lover of edgy Christian fiction, so the adult imagery between Havah and Adam didn't bother me at all. I found their passion for each other beautiful. I especially loved the joy and marvel Adam showed when Havah arrived.

But I always feel like I have to qualify when I mention edgy Christian fiction. I'm not talking about explicit details. Here's an example of adult imagery from Chapter 2:

We crossed the river, fell dripping upon the bank. He bent to my neck, my shoulder, my navel. I languished in pleasure.

I will satisfy you.
Yes. Agreement. Yes. A plea.
Feel the sun.
I feel it.
Feel my fingers.
I feel them.
How I love you.

I gave myself up to him.

I am the horn of the antelope, twining toward heaven. I am the leaf, twisting upon the stem. I am the sweet water that rushes from the rock, thrilling the hands that dip into it, slipping down the thirsty throat.

That night, as the cricket and the frog took over the song of the sleeping birds beneath the ascending moon, he wept against my shoulder.

"How I have longed for you," he said, the lovely voice broken like earth crumbling in water. I held him and my heart swelled like the river that overruns its banks.

How mighty, how great the One must be, I thought, to send the heavens careening, and yet hear the cry of a single heart.

I covered his mouth with my own. We did not sleep until dawn.

I certainly consider that scene edgy for Christian fiction, but beautiful and poetic.

However there were a couple of scenes I found uncomfortable involving their children. In Chapter 19, there is a scene where Havah and Adam are getting to know each other in a field and one of their daughters comes across them. It was a big 'eewww' moment for me:

He pulled me into his arms then, hungrily, my outburst, my anger, and his dull looks that had caused them forgotten between us. We had become furtive in our lovemaking, forgetting it as a man might forget a meal, devouring one another as soon as any emotion sparked realization of our inadvertent fast.

I saw Lila over Adam's shoulder when she walked into the clearing. I saw the way she stopped and watched us, eyes upon her father's back. Just when I would have said something, she quietly stole away. So I said nothing to either of them, though I noted how her gaze searched mine and followed Adam for days.

It also bothered me that a couple of their children had Oedipal complexes. With only a handful of people on the earth, I guess I can understand why it would happen. Still, I found it hard to read about.

The uncomfortable scenes didn't ruin the story for me (I still thought it was an awesome book), but they made the difference between a four and five star rating.

So I'd love to ask readers, where was your tipping point? Is there anything that was too much for you? If so, what? Did it ruin the book for you? Cause you to stop reading? Or did it just make you a little uncomfortable?

Don't forget to vote for October's book pick in my sidebar!

Did you blog about Havah? Between now and Saturday, link up your entry below (please enter a permalink to the actual post).

Over the next few days, be sure to hop around and comment on club member's discussions.


  1. This book was a hard one for me to get through.
    First, I had issues with the 'rewriting the Bible' thing. I know logically that was not what the author was doing but it took a bit to just accept it as just literary fiction.
    Second, I read some sleazy novels but what was written did make me quite uncomfortable. Not just the kids views of their parents but Adam & Eve's views of each other. Maybe it was because of who was being spoken of and not how...
    Third, the first section of the book was captivating. The imagery and details were mind-blowing. But then I was bored until they went to visit their son. I felt like I was being forced to read it. After thinking about it I wonder if it's because the book went from an amazing description of a place to a series of events and my puny brain just couldn't keep up?
    I just don't know.
    I am very happy to know that you enjoyed it. I think I'll keep it and try it again in the future. I may feel differently about it then.

  2. I was also uncomfortable with the incest/Oedipal complexes going on and while there's adult imagery, it was not graphic IMO. Overall though I didn't really like it.

    Thanks for discussing the distance Havah feels from God, I tried facetiously to answer it but was stuck.

  3. Ooh, so much for me to respond to, great discussion Gina. When I get off work tonight I'll address some of your comments and get over to your blog too! :)

  4. Gina,

    What part of Adam and Eve's view of each other made you uncomfortable? Was it just weird seeing "the Adam" and "the Eve" together this way? Would this story have been more palatable if they were fictional characters?

    Personally, I loved their fun times and hated seeing them have any discord at all in their relationship. But it's unrealistic that a couple married hundreds of years would have a happy perfect union the entire time.

    Just to clarify, you weren't calling this book sleazy were you? Just saying it made you uncomfortable.

    Bookworm- I agree, I didn't find anything graphic in this novel. I always want to make sure I say that for people who are unfamiliar with edgy Christian fiction.

    Juju- It's available at Netgalley now if you want to give it a try.

    Thanks for participating everyone! :)

  5. OK, I put up October's poll. Vote everyone!

  6. Joy I responded to your comment on my blog...check it out.

  7. I had this book but I have no clue what happened to it LOL! I don't have any of the books that you have as options for October but *hopefully* I will have Pearl in the Sand sometime soon (I won it from the publisher on Juju's blog).

    XOXO~ Renee

  8. The distance between Havah and God was a natural result to her disobedience. Every time I do something I know is displeasing to God, I feel some distance. I'm pretty sure it's not God pulling away from me, but me, by way of my acts, separating myself from him.

    I loved this book. I'm a huge fan of Tosca Lee's and can't wait to read her upcoming book on Judas. I don't have a problem with books like this, bedcause I don't see it as rewriting the Bible since the Bible really doesn't talk much about Adam and Eve's life beyond Eden, and definitely not from Eve's perspective. Rather, I see it as offering an opportunity to think more deeply about the Scriptures, my understanding of them and my relationship with Christ.

  9. So true, Patricia. Thanks for chiming in.

    This was the first book by Tosca Lee that I've read. I'm looking forward to reading Demon: A Memoir.

  10. Renee, I don't have any of October's book choices yet either. Pearl in the Sand is also at Netgalley right now. And I will have a couple of copies of Snow Day to giveaway if that one gets picked.

  11. Oh, and Tosca Lee DM'd me on Twitter to say thanks for reading her book this month everyone.

  12. thanks for reminding me that I had not informed everyone of their award. Glad you saw it.

  13. If you all haven't made it over to Thou Art Jules's entry, you should check it out. Tosca Lee popped in to answer some of our questions regarding the Oedipal Complexes.

  14. Thanks everyone for participating this month! Hopefully we'll get more of a turnout in October. The book chosen was Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar and says the next host is Gina at Hott Books. Look for her intro post this week!

  15. Late comment here. I sobbed several times during Havah. I found the portion of the book where she tried to connect with God and called Him but felt a sudden rift for the first time especially wrenching. I also found it heartbreaking when she saw her animal friend killed and when she witnessed death for the first time. The first time they made love as they were eating the fruit was particularly profound because that was the place where the taking vs. giving in sex began. It didn't bother me when the point came where one of the kids saw them. It happens in families (kids walking in) and honestly, having worked with sexually abused children for years, nothing really shocks me anymore.

  16. Great insight, Michelle! I like what you said about the taking vs. true. And you're right when her lion friend died it was so sad. :(


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