My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Sinners and the Sea is the story of Noah’s wife, through her own voice. Whether or not one believes the literal truth of the flood story, one might ponder how Noah met his wife, what their relationships might have been with the sons she eventually bore, and their wives–and more so, from whence did Noah’s wife even come? What was her life like before Noah and the flood?
In the Bible, Noah’s wife has no name, and no story. She surely must have been an interesting woman in her own right. Kanner begins well by creating a rather tragic character, shunned by those around her for nothing but a birthmark and superstition. Her father never gives her a name, for fear that name could be used to work ill against her. But he keeps her safe for years, with no man wanting her for his wife. Then, Noah enters the picture, already aged, struggling to listen to God’s voice and to do God’s will as best he can. He takes the unnamed girl off to his own land to be his wife. She eventually bears him three sons in as many years. As they live near a town filled with people whose conduct is certainly questionable, Noah spends much of his days lecturing them, warning them that the “God of Adam” means to punish sinners. After his sons grow, they begin to build the ark. All is not idyllic on the ark, and one starts to wonder if this family will even survive.
This is a believable story of a man whose relationship with his God is at the very beginning moments. It is fragile, and Kanner depicts Noah himself as occasionally feeling uncertainty. What is most remarkable and appealing about The Sinners and The Sea s that it is more complex than simply “Noah’s good family” vs “all the other sinners.” To the contrary, the three sons of Noah could be anyone’s sons, with their own attitudes, shaped by events and by their own inner musings. But. most importantly, this is not the story of Noah and the Flood–it is the story of a woman whose life was altered by her becoming wife to a man fervent in his faith that he was touched by his God, when she herself knew nothing. It is a story of devotion even in the strangest of circumstances.