By Grace Gardener
The story of Cain and Abel is short but well-known. Although it’s the first documented murder in the world, we don’t find out much about the killer and the victim, other than the motive and the aftermath. The Bible gives us a little bit of information of what happened before: Cain’s offering was rejected, while Abel’s was accepted. But what led up to this? Why did Cain and Abel have such different hearts when they grew up together?
It would seem strange to tell this story from Cain’s perspective, but that is what The Wanderer Scorned by Natasha Woodcraft does. Cain – Kayin in the book – tells us what happened through his eyes. Not only does this make for a deliciously unreliable narrator, it also serves as a warning. Each step into the downward spiral makes sense. Kayin doesn’t just suddenly decide to murder his brother. A long chain of decisions and griefs leads up to it. And, as readers, it is him we empathise with: although it becomes clear that Kayin has tinted glasses on, its is hard not to sympathise with his hurts and anger. It leads to the conclusion that Kayin isn’t special. This could be any of us, if we let it happen.
Another special feature of The Wanderer Scorned is the foregone conclusion. Usually, the attraction of fiction is that you don’t know what’s going to happen. This keeps you in suspense. In this case, the opposite is true: we know what’s going to happen, but not how we’re going to end up there. At many points in the book, it felt like things were going fine and there was no way that Kayin was going to end up killing Havel (the book’s version of Abel). But I knew it was coming, so I kept reading to see how the author would pull it off. That way of reading made me really enjoy the experience and it also ensures that a second read won’t be boring. Knowing the end is part of the fun.
The author of The Wanderer Scorned didn’t have much to go on for the setting: the Bible doesn’t give us a lot of clues about life shortly after the Fall. This meant she had to imagine it. I very much enjoyed reading the book because of this, because it makes you think about the world back then. The author is very conscientious about what she puts in herself and explains almost all the decisions she made at the end. It was good to know she hadn’t just put in whatever she felt like. Natasha Woodcraft is Christian and takes the Bible very seriously.
As a believer, I felt this book helped me in my own life. By seeing the story of others’ mistakes, we can learn how to avoid those. Not only is this book useful in that way, but it’s also a great read and a clevery crafted story. That way, you not only learn something by reading this book, but you have a great time while doing it.