Tobit Detours

Tobit Detours
Elisabeth Mehl Greene
Fernwood Press


Tobit Detours retells the story of Tobit from the Protestant apocrypha and Catholic canon. Featuring thirty-nine pieces from a revolving cast of characters, this version highlights peripheral perspectives beyond the title character and his son Tobias, expanding the story to include such points of view as an archangel, a demon, and the many integral female voices left out of main narrative as well as adding personas that emerge from the margins, such as the Queen of Assyria. Tragedy and comedy intertwine as poem monologues present the story in parts, characters joining in ensemble scenes. Modern references as well as biblical and literary intertextual connections flavor the poems, blending influences such as Nahum, Byron, and Ani DiFranco with the ancient text.  

Tobit Detours centers on journeys and distances as Tobit sends his son Tobias to retrieve funds in a faraway land, where he meets Sarah, who ultimately travels far from her family to join her new husband's household. Practical separations of the characters as well as metaphorical distances between what is hoped for and actual circumstances all connect to our present experiences of a pandemic-burdened existence, our paths detouring into unknown dangers and providence.

I don't know a better way to become acquainted with an obscure apocryphal cast of characters than to read Elisabeth Mehl Greene's poetry. She breathes magic and humor into ancient texts in a style not terribly unlike Jonathan Goldstein. She can take a dry story and show us a new perspective, throwing us into the minds of unnamed female characters, demons, angels, and camels-allowing each of them their well-deserved voices. Even if you've never heard of Tobit, Greene makes his story accessible and wildly entertaining. Combining rich vocabulary with modern slang, her wry wit sings through every page. Come for the gravedigging, stay for the angel pranks.

-Joann Renee Boswell, author of Meta-Verse and Cosmic Pockets

In Tobit Detours, Elisabeth Mehl Greene brings to life a little-known biblical text and infuses it with wit and verve. Greene brings her characters to vivid life and brings them into the modern world, giving them modern English to speak while depicting their essential qualities and quirks. One does not need to be a believer to find charm and wisdom herein. Enter Tobit's world as presented by Greene and savor its color and substance. 

-Gregory Luce, Poetry Editor, Bourgeon, and author of Riffs & Improvisations

Tobit Detours: part Punch and Judy show, part Shakespearean comedy, part Homeric journey, part Joycean play on words. This narrative in verse by Elisabeth Mehl Greene, scholar and artist, with its epic cast of characters, mystifies, teases, and delights.

-Anne Becker, author of Human Animal

In many ways, the Book of Tobit is the quintessential work of apocrypha: it's got a plucky young hero, a murderous demon, an avenging angel, an unlikely love story, and poop-related injury. With Tobit Detours, Greene has taken all the appeal of the ancient story and updated it for the post-modern reader with genuine emotion, elegant style, pointed wit, and knowing winks. A pleasure to read.

-Benito Cereno, Apocrypals podcast

Elisabeth Mehl Greene

is a writer and composer working in the DC area. She is the author of Lady Midrash: Poems Reclaiming the Voices of Biblical Women, and was the founding editor of Untold Volumes: Feminist Theology Poetry. Her work appears in CIRQUE, Lucky Jefferson, NonBinary Review, Bourgeon, VoiceCatcher, Mizna, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and the anthologies Erase the Patriarchy and District Lines IV, forthcoming from 45th Parallel.


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