Blake, Sarah. “Naamah”, Riverhead, 2019.
Naamah and Womanhood
I really love that feminists are reclaiming their places in the world and are doing so by telling stories but from the feminist point of view. I believe that Anita Diamant’s “The Read Tent” opened the door for the retelling of stories from the holy scriptures from the viewpoint of a woman. Now we have Sarah Blake’s “Naamah”, a retelling of the Flood “from the perspective of Noah’s wife as she wrestles with the mysterious metaphysics of womanhood at the end of the world.” We read that with the coming of the Great Flood only one family was spared and it drifted on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know that in the story of Noah, he was moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Writer Sarah Blake claims that it was Noah’s wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. She was a woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures, and mourning the lover she left behind. Here is the woman escaping into the unreceded waters, where a seductive angel tempts her to join a strange and haunted world. She was a woman tormented by dreams and questions of her own–questions of service and self-determination, of history and memory, of the kindness or cruelty of fate.
Blake revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth and rediscovers the burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. “Naamah” is a parable for our time; it is “a provocative fable of body, spirit, and resilience.” In the Bible she is not named so Blake corrects the Bible’s male-dominated mythology, poetically and with biblical proportions. Sarah Blake gives us a new vision of storytelling in which Noah’s wife who she names Naamah emerges as “an earth-bound soul savior as well as a desiring body capable of generating epic myth. In between hope and hell, and up against the divine, “Naamah” reminds us that the bodies and voices of women were always the heart of the story. Blake brings Naamah to life in sensual, hallucinatory, dream-sharp prose. Built on a fantastic premise, the story like the Ark comes together plank by plank, and then let loose on us. This is a surreal rendering of the woman tasked, essentially, with saving the world and it is erotic and surreal and I will not be forgetting it anytime soon.