This is a book I likely would not have otherwise stumbled upon, had Jessica not sent me a message via Goodreads, and one I likely would have declined to review, had it not been for the previous reviews calling it intelligent, dark-minded, vulgar, and blasphemous. As much as I tend to shy away from books with religious themes, that blasphemous tag really did catch my interest, and the reviewers' talk of interwoven mythologies intrigued me enough to take a chance.
I'm glad I did, because this was one of the most original reads I've had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time.
Dirty Eden is a book that hooks you right from the first page, somehow managing to inject a little discomfort into the boring banality of an office commute. All it takes is a glimpse of a stiletto-heeled stranger to shake Norman's routine, and a stranger's offer of $500 to go back and talk to her is more than enough temptation to derail not just a commute, but a man's entire life.
That stranger is, of course, the Devil . . . and what he expects from Norman is far more than just your typical 'selling your soul' type of mythological transaction. As we soon discover, there are big stakes involved, with the fate of all Creation ultimately resting upon the shoulders of an otherwise unremarkable man who dared to ask himself “What can it hurt?"
Before long we find ourselves accompanying Norman on an underworld journey which echoes those of Odysseus, Dante, and Chris Nielsen, but which adds its own unique spin on not just the journey, but the mythologies that overlap and combine to approximate the truth of our reality. It's a journey that's as fascinating as it it fearsome, through a landscape as gorgeous as it is grotesque. I think it was the moment that the naked, seductive fairy emerged from the forest, volunteering to have her wings ripped off as the price of Norman's passage across the Field of Yesterday, that I realized there was no escaping this book until I saw how it all would end.
This is a very dark book, and one that doesn't shy away from the darkness inside us all. Whether Norman is being confronted by the truth about himself, his family, or society at large, we're invited to bear witness to the worst acts of which mankind is capable - rape, murder, incest, adultery, theft, etc. There's not a lot of hope to the story, but there is a redeeming quality to Norman's personal growth that propels us along. It's also a very complex book, and one that is equally capable in delivering twists in plot as twists in mythology. Nothing is quite what it seems here, and the worst mistake you can make in reading the story is to assume you know what the Devil, Norman, or the author truly intend.
Having dreaded a literary betrayal, fully expecting a typically biblical end to the story, I was delighted to discover a climax worthy of the story that precedes it, an action-filled, suspense-laden, treacherous piece of storytelling that pulls together all of the various characters and themes into an entirely satisfying resolution. More than that, I have to applaud Jessica for a final twist that is as glorious as it is unexpected.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins