Gabe in the Garden

Adam Schrader has some unorthodox ideas about religion, Hades, children, and families, which have emerged as Gabe in the Garden, an unusual children’s book.

Gabe is a child angel who lives with his father, Michael, and stepmom, Ariel. He’s a polite and cooperative child, but he misses his mother, Lucy, who’s in Hell. During a Sunday trip to the Eden Botanical Garden, he sneaks away from his parents and engages in several malicious pranks against fellow garden visitors. As he commits each one, he takes on an aspect of devilry, until he has a forked tail, horns, and red skin, supplemented by a tree branch that turns into a hissing snake receding into an abstract wall of fire. As he passes out, he hears his mother’s voice discussing his bad behavior with his father and how they should remedy it – an especially apt assignment for Lucy, as it’s her hellish job to punish sinners for the consequences of their actions.

With his stepmother (and her halo) trailing behind, Michael and Lucy take Gabe back to Eden to apologize to each person he pranked. All are gracious and forgiving, and by the time his apologies are completed, he’s an angel again. As he apologizes to his parents and admits how much he misses his mother, Michael promises their visits will be more frequent:

“I’ll make sure you see more of him,” Mike said to Lucy as they parted ways. “Seems like he needs a good influence like you around. He needs his mom.”

Accompanying the story are primitive and vividly colored illustrations reminiscent of Outsider Art: Lucy and her pointed teeth devour an apple against an orange and red gated background. The security guards have wings. Nearly every person in the park has a halo (although, for some reason, Gabe’s intended third victim does not. Maybe because Gabe fell victim to his own plan?).

Adam Schrader is a well-educated man, holding a BA from a religious college and a master’s in journalism. He’s a longtime freelance journalist and photographer, and while his website features an extensive resume and letters of recommendation, along with just about every news story he’s written, this book does not appear on his wide world of web.

Gabe in the Garden is a bit confusing and might prove scary to younger children. An essential evangelical message – a child needs his mother – is lost in the fact that said mother is in Hell, but why did Schrader put her there in the first place? The general impression of the Christian Bible is that angels and devils aren’t approved to keep company, much less make babies. An explanation of her residence is needed.

And the dedication? “For my loving mom, a role-model who would go to Hell for her children.” Yes, most mothers would, and Gabe’s has done so.

Adam Schrader’s mind works in mysterious ways, because Gabe in the Garden, full of allusions and metaphors, often appears monstrous rather than explanatory.

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