Sunday, August 08, 2010

Noah's Wife

Noah’s Wife: 5500 BCE
by T. K. Thorne

(Chalet Publishers / 0-984-08364-2 / 978-0-984-08364-0 / October 2009 / 366 pages / $16.95 / $15.25 Amazon / $4.99 Kindle)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

The title is a little deceptive, in that this is not a Bible-based retelling of the story of Noah, his family, their animals and an ark that enables them all to survive a flood. It is rather an attempt to recreate a very particular world, that world of Neolithic humans, over 7,000 years ago, living along the shores of a freshwater lake in what is now Anatolia, a world just beginning the transition from hunting and gathering to herding and farming, where tribal peoples are beginning to settle into established towns. It is a new world, torn between worship of an earth-mother-goddess and a sky-father-god, where time is measured by seasons and the phases of the moon, and where a human is old at forty. There is no such thing as a written language; knowledge, traditions, and skills must be passed verbally and by demonstration, and the people living in the villages across the mountains are foreigners. This world is realized very thoroughly and skillfully; the author conveys very well the feeling that this is truly the dawn of civilization, the seed time from which all the rest of human history sprouted. This material was the dimmest of cultural memories to the various writers of the Old Testament books of the Bible – as well as scribes recording in other traditions. A scattering of these traditions and names are worked into the story: Tubal-Cain, Vashti, a garden in Eden. Accounts of a horrific, world-ravaging flood is common currency in folklore; a race-memory which argued such a shattering event had really occurred – and if not extended world-wide, at least happened in a place where humans lived, and survived the experience, passing down the stories to their descendants.

While many historians had placed the source of the Noachian flood tale in pre-historic Mesopotamia, in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, T.K. Thorne moves it to the shores of the present Black Sea. Recent explorations have pretty well proven that the lake was once much smaller, and river-fed, rather than a salt-water body, open to the Mediterranean, although it is still a matter of conjecture as to whether it filled gradually, or in one catastrophic rush of salt-water. The author builds her plot around the catastrophic-rush scenario; but takes the time and the most of the book to relate the lives of Na’amah, the wife of Noah, her family and her friends, and the circumstances which lead to them and their herds and working animals, all taking refuge in a house built like a boat. Besides being a wife, Na’amah is also shepherdess, seer and priestess – and afflicted with Ausberger’s syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism. Na’amah sees and notices much, being almost inhumanly observant and hypersensitive to certain stimuli. She relates very well to animals, obsessively well, but less well to people. Being a story written in the first person has its limitations, in that we hardly ever see the character telling the story from the outside, but in this case, it makes for a tightly focused tale, and a singularly unforgettable character.

See also: The BNN Review
Theresa Thorne's Website

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