Karen Karbo
September 09, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In Fallen, a gracious, witty retelling of the story of Cain and Abel, David Maine (The Preservationist) explains it all for you: how complicated, surly Cain became the world’s first misanthrope (and murderer); how even the First Parents fretted over their children’s self-esteem; how men have always liked women with long hair. ”You have to remember, when we first started out we knew nothing at all. Nothing,” says Eve, defending Adam’s onetime fear of rabbits to the dutiful, dim Abel. The novel proceeds backward from Cain’s death, through the infamous murder, and deep into the marital dynamics of the fecund and overworked Eve and Adam. The opening chapters detailing Cain’s solitary wandering possess less snap than the rest of the book, but Maine has crafted a work of both high seriousness and wicked laughs.

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