Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Sinners & the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as “wife” in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before. 

Noah was not alone. He had a wife. He had a family. We know the names of Noah's forebears (he himself was the son of Lamech, son of Methuselah) and his offspring (Shem, Ham, Japeth) - all are mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 5:28-32). What we don't know is the name of Noah's wife.

Many have speculated what her name may be - possibly Naameh, daughter of Lamech (son of Methushael) by Zillah; she was given the name of Emzrar in the Book of Jubilees (c. 2nd century BC); whilst the fourth century bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius, gave her the name of Barthenos.

Her story is one of faith, courage and endurance. She patiently remained supportive and faithful to Noah so that he could achieve his goals; and her endurance through the terrible times of pre-and post-flood, is a testament to her strength of character, her fidelity, and her leadership.

In Sinners & the Sea by Rebecca Kanner creates a backstory for the wife of Noah; she is marked and nameless but not voiceless as this is her story as she tells it. After being scorned and treated like a pariah, an aged (ie: 500year old) Noah arrives to take her as his wife, and they journey back to Sorum, a city that is a hotbed of vice and sin, into which she gives birth to three sons. And here her faith and vision is surely tested as Noah attempts to steer the people away from their depravity and wicked ways, as his own sons are gradually drawn from the path of righteousness.

And when the Lord saw what evil man had wrought, he called unto Noah to build an Ark, from which to save himself, his family, and two of each animal before he sent a deluge to earth to "exterminate from under heaven all flesh that has breath of life in it" (Genesis 6:17). Now she will need all of her strength and courage during the building of the Ark, for in such a wicked city, one can only imagine the taunts and abuse hurled their way.

We all know the rest of the story - the collection of two of every animal, the torrents of rain for forty days and forty nights, the endless floating within what surely was a claustrophobic (tomb-like) atmosphere for nigh on a year, before landing amid desolation to start anew.

Kanner's story is not sugar-coated it - the family of Noah is as flawed as any family and we often find ourselves wondering if they are really worth saving? The world they live in is harsh and unrelenting, it is full of superstition, immorality, violence, betrayal. It is into this world that Kanner posits her characters.

This is surely a powerful debut, and a masterful and emotive retelling of a known story - proper Old Testament fire and brimstone stuff. 

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