Adam and Eve most definitely lived in Ohio. Or China. Or the North Pole, or Mesopotamia.

Actually, the real location of the Garden of Eden (if indeed there was a Garden of Eden) is something of a mystery. In the thought-provoking Paradise Lust, author Brook Wilensky-Lanford explores why this Biblical paradise still fascinates so many. It may be an unanswerable question, relating to some intangible human need to understand our origin. She calls a well-known archaeologist to ask just why people care so much.

“You tell me,” he replies. “You’re the one calling from halfway around the world.”

Fair enough.

So Wilensky-Lanford goes directly to the source, so to speak: Genesis, which describes Eden as being situated between four rivers (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates). “The Bible sounds positively nonchalant: if you can pinpoint the four rivers, you can locate paradise,” Wilensky-Lanford writes. “In fact, many Eden seekers claimed that the unusually matter-of-fact description was the reason they decided to look for Eden to begin with—it just sounded like a real place.” Real enough to draw the attention of everyone from the first president of Boston University—William Fairfield Warren, a Methodist minister who firmly believed Eden was in the North Pole—to Elvy Callaway, a Baptist Floridian who opened the Garden of Eden Park right there near Pensacola in 1956. Paradise Lust recounts their journeys and those of others with buoyant humor and fascinating historical tidbits.

This is the first book for Wilensky-Lanford, who has written for ?Salon.com and other publications. If you want dramatic pronouncements about the latitude and longitude of the Garden of Eden, you’ll have to look elsewhere. As Wilensky-Lanford notes, “No matter how unassailable a theory of Eden seems, it will be assailed.” But if you’re looking for a sly and entertaining account of the ongoing search for paradise, Paradise Lust is it.

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