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Naamah: A Novel

by Sarah Blake

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885233,173 (3.04)3
"Revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. Naamah is a parable for our time: a fable of body, spirit, and resilience"--

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The premise is great—a Noah's Ark view from his wife, Naamah. Some of it was insightful, but mostly it was just weird. Okay, she has dreams that are kind of odd, but I can live with that. Not being able to see (spoiler alert) the animals? I didn't get it, but I can live with that also. Having sex (spoiler alert) with angels and her daughter-in-law and maybe God? Not sure what that had anything to do with the story other than making Naamah seem like a nymphomaniac. ( )
  DonnaMarieMerritt | Jan 19, 2021 |
"A dreamy and transgressive feminist retelling of the Great Flood from the perspective of Noah's wife as she wrestles with the mysterious metaphysics of womanhood at the end of the world."
  HandelmanLibraryTINR | Jan 25, 2020 |
Naamah, a feminist reimagining of the Noah’s Ark story, is the kind of thing I normally like. Take a well-known tale, tell it from a woman’s perspective, and challenge the patriarchal view of the original story -- and I’m in. When done well, as in Madeline Miller’s Circe or Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, these books are a joy to read. Sadly, Naamah doesn’t measure up and I had to abandon it.

The book started off well. Naamah is a pragmatist, making sure the ark is built to withstand what is to come. She questions a God who would decide to wipe out the civilization they created. She advises her sons and their wives not to have sex on the ark, because they don’t know how long they will be living there and the ark is no place to raise a child. It’s difficult enough dealing with animal reproduction.

But soon, the story becomes disjointed, with too many threads and, dare I say it, too much sex. I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, but the author seemed to rely heavily on these scenes to keep the reader engaged. Between these scenes and Naamah’s strange encounters when swimming in the waters, I lost the will to go on.
1 vote lauralkeet | Dec 11, 2019 |
This novel gives the perspective of Naamah, Noah’s wife, as she and her family live on the ark waiting for the rain to stop and the water to recede. Noah built the ark but Naamah is the one whose job it seems to be to keep its inhabitants alive so they can reconstruct the world. She deals with the daily practicalities of life: feeding, cleaning, exercising, and controlling the animals; she’s “the one who’s always plowing ahead, unfazed by dead animals, broken doors, injured legs, the same food over and over.” After a problem is solved, Naamah finds herself “still thinking fast, still feeling like she might have to jump to action, save someone, sacrifice something.”

To escape the confines of life on the ark, Naamah goes swimming. In the water, surreal things happen. She comes across a world inhabited by the dead where she plays with dead children. She also meets an angel with whom she has sex. Naamah also has many dreams in which she communicates with other beings, including God.

It is the many dream sequences that are problematic. The boundaries between reality and her dream world are blurred so it is difficult to determine if what is being described is real. I found myself often questioning the purpose of various dreams. The constant insertion of dreams fractures the narrative and takes away any suspense. Readers who enjoy lyrical writing will enjoy the dream sequences but I found them more intrusive than revelatory.

This is very much a feminist retelling of the Biblical story. The novel focuses on the experiences of Naamah and her three daughters-in-law rather than on those of Noah and the three sons. Naamah, for example, mourns the dead; she finds herself “overwhelmed by her new understanding of the deaths of the people God no longer wanted.” Repopulating the world becomes the responsibility of the women and “Naamah wonders if God has considered this: women so distrustful of Him that they might never bear children for the new world.”

Distrustful is probably the best word to describe Naamah’s relationship with God. It is this relationship which I found most interesting in the novel. She does not revere Him. She finds it difficult to trust someone who let innocent children die in the flood; she shares the opinion of a dead woman who says, “’I can’t imagine knowingly going to Him after what He’s done.’” Naamah, like her daughter-in-law Adata, has no firm belief “that they are ever far from God’s grief.” Naamah is told that God cannot be judged because He cannot be understood, but she says, “’I judge Him just the same.’”

Naamah also has doubts about God’s plan. Before the flood began, she was told by Noah that God “’wants to wipe the earth clean, start fresh. He’s deemed everything wicked and evil. He’s seen too much violence. He thinks He got us wrong.’” That leads to her main question, “’How does God get something wrong?’” She wonders why she has been determined to be not wicked and so saved when she feels otherwise. One night on the ark, fireflies are seen and Japheth, the eldest son, says that God has called into being things that were not, and Naamah replies, “’Yes! Yes! Why is it, then, do you think, Japheth, that we should usher all these animals, if he could just do that, on the other side of the flood?’”

I think the premise of this novel is interesting, but I was not impressed with the execution. The many surreal scenes detract from the portrayal of a strong woman willing to question and scold God.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | May 22, 2019 |
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"Revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. Naamah is a parable for our time: a fable of body, spirit, and resilience"--

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