Sin­ners and the Sea: The Untold Sto­ry of Noah’s Wife

  • Review
By – May 13, 2013

The book of Gen­e­sis begins the sto­ry of Noah in chap­ter five. It names Noah as a man right­eous in his gen­er­a­tion who was five hun­dred years old when he begat Shem, Ham, and Jeph­thah. The world at the time of Noah is filled with vio­lence and cor­rup­tion. We are told about God choos­ing to save Noah and his sons and their wives but the women are not named.

In Sin­ners and the Sea, the author imag­ines an entire new side of the Noah sto­ry. In the tra­di­tion of bib­li­cal fic­tion like The Red Tent and Rashi’s Daugh­ters, the frame­work is made up of the events told in the Bible, how­ev­er the cre­ative author invents addi­tions and embell­ish­ments to fill in the miss­ing infor­ma­tion. In this ver­sion of the Noah sto­ry, Eben is a pro­tec­tive sin­gle par­ent to his name­less marked daugh­ter. A suc­cess­ful olive grow­er, he is set apart from his neigh­bors due to the demon” mark above his daughter’s eye. She was born with this mark, her moth­er dis­ap­peared, and father and daugh­ter have been tor­ment­ed ever since. As the horde out­side their tent becomes more embold­ened to lynch Eben’s daugh­ter, one man, Arrat the sto­ry­teller, finds a match for her in barter for olive groves. Noah, a man hun­dreds of years old, has been in search of a right­eous wife and will take her far away. Eben agrees in order to save his pure daughter’s life. Thus begins the saga of Noah’s wife, who is name­less in the Bible and bare­ly dis­cussed. She is tak­en by Noah to live in a place filled with whores and mur­der­ers. Noah the prophet preach­es to the sin­ners day and night to repent and to fol­low the God of Adam. 

The author gives an intel­li­gent voice to Noah’s wife, who wit­ness­es the hor­ri­fy­ing details of the people’s lives in that era. Her own life becomes sweet­er only when her three sons are born and she is busy rais­ing and pro­tect­ing them. The process of the build­ing of the ark, the ensu­ing end­less days of rain, flood­ing, and dev­as­ta­tion are described intense­ly. There are few bright moments in this fic­tion­al bib­li­cal sto­ry which illus­trates so clear­ly all the evils of human nature. As the rela­tion­ship between Noah and his wife pro­gress­es ever so slow­ly but pos­i­tive­ly, the three broth­ers’ inter­ac­tions are increas­ing­ly com­pli­cat­ed and neg­a­tive. At least toward the end, the glimpses of hope for the beau­ti­ful, ver­dant new world after the flood waters sub­side are encouraging.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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