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What Bruce Feiler’s reading of ‘the first love story’ leaves out.

I’ve often wished for a book to hand to wives and husbands preparing to walk out on their families. I could have used half a dozen copies this year. I picked up Bruce Feiler’s The First Love Story: Adam, Eve and Us with hope. Maybe this was it!

Feiler is the best-selling author of nine books, including Walking the Bible, an account of a 10,000-mile journey retracing the steps of the Hebrew patriarchs. He’s widely recognized as an expert on religion and family, and has hosted two PBS series, Walking the Bible and Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler. His most recent book was The Secrets of Happy Families. The topic of marriage, then, was a logical next step.

I began the book with enthusiasm. What a fabulous idea! To harness the power of perhaps the most famous story in the Bible and employ it as an apologetic for the enduring kind of love that God desires in all marriages. Indeed, this is Feiler’s aim: to offer an antidote to our culture’s love affair with pleasure and narcissistic romance.

The need for the book is obvious. Feiler doesn’t waste much space reminding us of our pitiful state, including the staggering number of marriages that end in divorce. Recent challenges of online pornography, polyamory, technology, and a pervasive individualism all threaten our already fragile unions. Under this onslaught, Feiler asks, “Are there any values, lessons, or stories worth preserving?” Which lands us in Genesis, in the Garden, ready to take notes from the first couple.

A Radical Re-reading

Feiler anticipates yawns of irrelevance. He spends a lot of time disproving such charges, tracing our ongoing conflicts—from equal pay to household chores to same-sex marriage—all the way …

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