My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Author T. K. Thorne brings us the mythic story of Na’amah in her beautifully written novel “Noah’s Wife.” Using research indicating that a flood about 5500 BCE nearly decimated the settlements along the southern shore of a fresh water lake known today as the Black Sea, Thorne has created a rich, multidimensional and richly imagined account of the Biblical flood from a feminine point of view.
Na’amah’s difficult birth left her with a pinched-head disfigurement that would have given the elders cause to cast her out had her grandmother Savta not convinced them the condition was temporary. Tubal-Cain will not forgive his sister for killing their mother in childbirth, though his actions stem in part from a secret Na’amah does not know. As a member of the hunting clan, Tubal-Cain despises Na’amah’s obsession with sheep and for being, in his estimation, somewhat dimwitted and without value. When Na’amah is twelve years old, she asks her grandmother why she keeps telling her she is special.
She is special, Savta says, in a way that can never be spoken of openly. Mother-Goddess has chosen her as a spokeswoman; yet this is a time when the goddess’ influence is waning in favor of a patriarchal Father-God belief system. The highly superstitious elders would throw Na’amah into a pit in the center of town used for meting out punishments if she openly professed a belief in the goddess.
Na’amah, who–in today’s terms–is an Asperger savant, does not believe in either Mother-Goddess or Father-God. While she doesn’t understand why her extreme sensitivity to sound produces color visualizations or why she can perceive the low-frequency vibrations that precede earthquakes, she has no interest hearing about secret missions for a purported Mother-Goddess. She wants to be left alone to tend her sheep and experience the magic of life as the natural world presents it to her.
“Noah’s Wife” begins twenty-one years before the flood and focuses on Na’amah’s betrothal and marriage to Noah the boat builder, her mistreatment at the hands of her own people as well as the nearby River People, and her forced need to come to terms with her special talents. In mythic terms, she undergoes both an outer, physical quest and an inner spiritual journey.
Thorne has created a deep and fully formed cultural backdrop for Na’amah’s quest, complemented with a highly detailed physical world and well-defined characters. Like Tosca Lee’s account of First Woman in “Havah: The Story of Eve,” Thorne’s “Noah’s Wife” represents an epic alternative to a well-known patriarchal story. The result is a novel of great enchantment, suspense and power.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire”