Naamah

Riverhead Books  2019

 

In her debut novel, Sarah Blake vividly conveys the story of Noah and the Ark from an unusual perspective—that of Noah’s wife, Naamah. It’s probably safe to say that, biblical scholars aside, few have considered the life of Naamah, or even know her name. Blake writes with strong, sensual, modern language, and utilizes time travel and dream sequences to create a multilayered story. With this book, Blake has taken one of the best-known biblical tales and opened it up in ways both inventive and provocative.

Naamah is filled with the sights, scents, and sounds of Naamah, Noah, and their family’s trying existence on the Ark. Blake brings this world alive in many ways, from detailed descriptions of the construction of the Ark and preparations for the journey, to the day-to-day practicalities of living with a literal boatload of creatures who need to be fed, cleaned up after, cared for, and controlled. This is not to mention the interactions among the eight people living on the Ark: Naamah, Noah, their three sons, and three daughters-in-law.

Blake examines Naamah’s complex inner life: the pain of leaving behind a lover, her relationship with an angel, her relationship with God. She also explores the psychological implications Naamah, Noah, and their children face as the last eight people left on Earth—their guilt, confusion, and anxiety, and the weight of the responsibilities that lie ahead of them. Here is Naamah speaking to her family before they enter the Ark: ”This is the last time you will see a crowd of people. Enjoy them. Observe them. Remember what you can. And don’t try to stick together. Soon we’ll all be together more than we can stand.”

With Naamah, Blake provides insights both unique and moving, and makes an ancient tale feel vibrant and relevant to today.



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