Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book Review: 'Havah: A Novel' by Tosca Lee

Havah by Tosca Lee

‘My father, my brother, my love!’ In the beginning there was God…For me, there was Adam’

Tosca Lee, a bestselling American author of historical novels and supernatural thrillers, is best known for her exploration of maligned characters, prodigious research and vivid imagery. Lee was born in Roanoke, Virginia, to a Korean father and Caucasian American mother. Her father, Professor Emeritus Sang Moon Lee, who had early aspirations of an opera career, named Tosca for his favorite Puccini opera. As a young classically trained ballerina and pianist Lee pursued an early career in dance until injuries derailed hopes of a successful career. Lee received her BA in English from Smith College and studied international economics at Oxford University. As a young classically trained ballerina and pianist Lee pursued an early career in dance until injuries derailed hopes of a successful career.

For those fortunate enough to have read Tosca Lee’s books – especially her The Line Between series and The House of Bathory series – then the talent of this fine author is known. But pause a bit, because HAVAH: The Story of Eve, written in 2015, shines a new light on her gifts, an epic retelling of the story of Creation as found in the Bible. While some may respond to that theme as simply a religious idea, the manner in which Tosca molds this familiar concept of ‘the first woman’ brings a degree of universality that echoes contemporary purview.

The prose that opens this exceptional novel offers a promise that is fulfilled: ‘I have seen paradise and ruin. I have known bliss and terror. I have walked with God. And I know that God made the heart the most fragile and resilient of organs, that a lifetime of joy and pain might be encased in one mortal chamber. I still recall my first moment of consciousness…’ And with that awakening, we enter the Garden of Eden and the embellished story of Havah (or Eve) begins.

Plot outline – ‘Created, not born. Her name is Eve. Myth and legend shroud her in mystery. Now hear her story. She knew this earth when it was perfect—as she was perfect, a creature without flaw. Created by God in a manner like no other, Eve lived in utter peace as the world’s first woman, until she made a choice, one mistake for which all of humanity would suffer. But what did it feel like to be the first person to sin and experience exile; to see innocence crumble so vividly; and to witness a new strange, darker world emerge in its place? From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the epic dawn of mankind through the eyes and heart of Eve—the woman first known as Havah.’

In one fine epic we are invited to understand relationships – spiritual and emotional – in a refreshing new light. Another major achievement by Tosca Lee whose stature in the literary world continues to astound us.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.