In Eddie’s of His Breath, Eric Ribbens offers a series of imagined retellings that explore the lives of many of the protagonists of the Bible. In an effort to make these centuries-old characters more relatable for modern readers, the author takes on the personae of such heroes and heroines as Adam, Eve, Miriam, Joel, Samson, Joseph, and Nicodemus and allows them to tell their stories and express their feelings about God, themselves, and the world around them.
Told primarily in chronological order paralleling the timelines in the Bible, Ribbens’ portraits are simply told, poetic, and often provocative. Here, we find Eve talking candidly about sex; Judas calling Jesus an “idiot” and expressing his dissatisfaction for his master, and Mary reflecting on her life as mother to Christ and on the miracles he performs: “He is a child, a good child. But strange things happen around him.”
Ribbens’ stories are generally effective and fast-paced. “All my life I have been the plain one, the ugly one,” Leah reveals about her jealousy over her younger, more beautiful sister Rachel. When she exclaims, “Look at me,” readers feel her sadness and disappointment at being ignored by family and suitors. And when Elijah shares that “Joy probes, penetrates, pursues” upon hearing the still voice of God, we imagine his ecstasy and gratitude. Other accounts, however, such as Rahab acknowledging that being “a sex object was flattering” sometimes fall flat and feel forced, while the last few chapters including “Sweaty Angels,” often feel disconnected from the rest of the narrative.
Still, there are more hits than misses, and Ribbens’ work succeeds in stimulating the imagination while exploring issues of faith and uncertainty. While some readers may be turned off by his casual prose, Ribbens has created a readable and interesting tableau of real-life people struggling with the doubts and delights of leading a God-centric life. Christian readers of contemplative literature will find much to meditate on here.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.