Book Review: Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand

Also posted in today’s News Register:

Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand by Gioconda Belli
The story of Adam and Eve covers just 40 verses within the book of Genesis. In “Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand,” author Gioconda Belli transforms that traditional tale into a mesmerizing novel exploring the emotional depths of the first couple, reinventing it into a personal account of love, hope, discovery and eventually disaster.
The plot contains no surprises. We follow Adam and Eve through their respective creations, their exile from Eden, survival in the wilderness, and the birth of Cain and Abel and their lesser-known female twins, Luluwa and Aklia. The aspects of Belli’s novel that truly captivate the reader, however, occur when she fills in the blanks.
Belli explores the feelings of Adam and Eve, switching perspectives between the two, so that the reader understands their thoughts. We experience the amazement of Adam upon the creation of Eve, the deep and unconditional love that forms between them, as well as the devastation they felt after their expulsion from Eden.
It explores the eternal conflict between the couple, as each deals with the regret and pain of consequences, as well as their acceptance of the reality of their destiny. Belli describes these emotions beautifully and honestly, answering the question of what it would be like to be the first to experience the full scope of human emotion and perception.
The most innovative part of the book is how the author turns a well-known Bible story into a personal narrative. As she writes in the introduction, her novel is a work of fiction, and with that freedom, she is able to utilize creative license to create complicated characters.
In Belli’s novel, the serpent is not an evil entity, but a counterpart to Elokim, the Creator, reflecting the duality of man and woman. Eve is not portrayed as a betrayer who facilitated humans’ fall from grace, but as strong woman with a free will and a burning passion to discover more about her world and her future, a sentiment as relevant today as it was then. Belli forgoes pretentiousness, simply asserting that her novel is just one more interpretation of the classic story.
Belli, a renowned Nicaraguan poet and novelist, has written a truly captivating novel that transforms the legendary figures of Adam and Eve into real people, with fears and hopes. The reader can imagine what questions Adam and Eve asked themselves, and understand on a personal level how it might have felt to witness humanity’s beginnings.

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