Winner of ForeWord Review Magazine's BOOK OF THE YEAR, for Historical Fiction, 2009. Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a brilliant young girl who sees the world through different eyes (a form of autism now known as Aspergers) and wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey – a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother, the love of two men, and a looming disaster.
T.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district as the executive director. Both careers provide fodder for her writing, which has garnered several awards, including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel NOAH'S WIFE. Her first non-fiction book, LAST CHANCE FOR JUSTICE was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Her newest nonfiction is BEHIND THE MAGIC CURTAIN: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham's Civil Rights Days. A dally with murder and magic resulted in the Magic City Stories trilogy (HOUSE OF ROSE, HOUSE OF STONE, and HOUSE OF IRON). She loves traveling, especially to research her novels, and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home, often with a dog or cat vying for her lap and sometimes a horse or two at the front door.
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 which 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 phase 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 hyper-sensitive 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.
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 sensitive 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.
I loved the way the narrative centered around Na'amah. It really is a coming of age story of sorts. Imagine being a female in 5500 BCE? Ah no thanks. Add being a female in 5500 BCE with Asperger Syndrome? Ah no thanks again. Welcome to Na'amah's brutal world. Not going to lie, I was more than curious to see how the author was going to work AS into the entire story.
Na'amah is a compelling character. This young lady endures the unimaginable with strength beyond belief. Yes she faces endless challenges but she also possesses gifts she will come to understand as time passes. Her AS ostracizes her from her village, she realizes she is different not quite grasping why. I don't have a lot of personal experience with AS, the sketch the author drew seemed plausible and a subtle indicator of AS. I felt AS was handled in a respectful manner and never used as a limitation in Na'amah's development overall.
Characterization was well done, I even enjoyed the love triangle between Na'amah, Noah and Yanner. Tubal evoked zero empathy from me. His evil demeanor overshadow his victim card. He is memorable but I just couldn't feel for him except pure loathing. Savta stole my heart, an endearing women, serving as a buffer as best she could under horrible circumstances.
The writing is beautiful and well done initially serving as the catalyst pulling me into the story.
Despite the title, Noah's Wife is not Christian based at all, rather it focuses on a time when people were torn between Mother Goddess and Father God. And this is where the story slides down a slippery slope for me. Half way through the book Mother Goddess vs. Father God dominates the narrative and it becomes too much. I found my focus straying and my interest forced. Totally lost me from this point on and I was saddened.
Another area I found off putting, the male on male rape, incest descriptions. I felt it overdone. I'm sure this behavior was common during this time but it was a little too much and unexpected for this reader. In all fairness, the book took a turn half way through, it dragged and had so much going on it just went in too many directions for my taste.
I found Noah's Wife to be a read relying heavily on individual taste. I encourage you to discover where this fits in your taste spectrum.
This is my first book by Thorne and I will read at least two more of her works to determine our chemistry. I liken this one to a 'first date' too soon to determine our future but the potential is there, third date determines compatibility for an ongoing relationship.
A story of a young woman's journey riddled with deep dark family secrets, betrayal, hatred, love, family, with her strength and determination carrying her through the bright and dark sides life places upon us.
Think about yarn for a moment. If you look at it under the microscope, you'll see that it's a series of fibrous strands that have been woven together so tightly they seem to fuse into a single cord. Little ends of the strands edge free from the cord and catch the light that shines on the weave. Story yarns are the same: a woven rope of characters, narrative and plot points pull the entire tale together while, here and there, a strand can catch the light. Some story yarns are so strong that other writers can spread out their elements, and then reweave them into another pattern that shows what you didn't see before. Gregory Maguire did this with Wicked and Joan Aiken rewove Jane Austen's Emma into her own Jane Fairfax. I love this technique but the one I love even more is when a writer pulls one of the glinting ends at the edge of a story and teases a whole new tale from that thread. T. K. Thorne did this in 2011 when she pulled the bright thread of a character from the book of Genesis and created a tale named Noah's Wife. At last, the Lady of the Ark has a voice.
Her name is Na'amah and the locals agree she's unusual. Not quite right. Because her recall of detail, Na'amah can recite the markings and lineage of every sheep in the flock but she can't look most people in the eye. She's direct to the point of being rude and has difficulty understanding humor or lies. She's not sure the gods really exist. She's only sure about what she learns through her senses which is how she meets the boat maker. "Why do you wrinkle your nose," Noah asks. "Because you smell bad" replies Na'amah.
Genesis mentions Na'amah only in genealogical terms (a descendant of Cain) and Noah's wife in lists relating to the ark but a Jewish text interpreting Genesis says these two were one and the same. T K Thorne takes it a step further by giving Na'amah a personality, opinions and a soul to match the man of history she married. The hard life of her biblical tribe is here as well as the problems that confound people today. Na'amah faces her tragedies and triumphs with the same tears and joy we know and her retelling of the story of the flood comes with a perspective that accounts for the world-changing event as well as the problems of living in a boat with a bunch of incontinent animals.
Life and love, death and despair are all part of the human condition. This is not subject to change. How we react to these is so variable and important that we've woven a tapestry of stories to guide us through each part of our lives. Noah's Wife was once an idea, teased from a glinting edge of a character that lived in the first book of the Bible. Now Na'amah repeats her life's story and it becomes a guide on how to live until you're sure life will continue. And someday that continuing life may spin another tale that glints on the edges of hers.
4.5 ★ Audiobook ⎮ I don't think I will ever be able to look at the biblical tale of Noah quite the same again. Considering the amount of available information the author had to go on, I am in awe of her ability to spin such an incredibly deep and evocative story from so little. I seriously doubt that I will ever be able to think of Biblical Noah without Thorne's Na'amah immediately springing to mind. This story provoked very strong existential will feelings from me. It was an incredible experience to be able to identify modern and universal themes occurring in a story set more than 7,500 years ago.
By far, the most impressive thing about the story was the attention to detail and the amount of research that obviously went into writing it. I can't even imagine the amount of work that would go into researching for this type of story. Yet, everything flowed so well and nothing ever felt forced. Thorne clearly understands that gradual, but complete, character development is the key to letting a story unfold organically. Na'amah was such an original and inspirational character. I love when authors spotlight characters with disabilities, but (in my experience) we usually see that more often in stories with contemporary settings. For obvious reasons, most individuals with disabilities did not survive in ancient times. It is even stated in this book that the the traditional practice was to leave an infant seen as "damaged" outside to die from exposure or animal attack. Na'amah's grandmother fought for her survival and advocated for her for the rest of her life. The bond they shared was absolutely beautiful. Na'amah was socially ostracized for her differences (what we would call autism, today), but ultimately, those differences were what saved her. I will never get tired of reading stories like this.
I highly recommend this audiobook for anyone interested in Biblical lore and historical fiction. Don't expect anything too Dan Brown-esque. It's much more tame than that and therefore probably less polarizing. I would, however, caution that this story contains prominent incidences of sexual abuse. I found that part of the plot ultimately very moving, but it did make me squirm at times (as it should). I know I review a lot Young Adult audiobooks, but I want to be clear: This is not one of them.
Narration review: I really felt like Melissa Carey became Na'amah in this narration. The soft timbre and slow rhythm of her voice perfectly aligned with my vision of the main character. Her voice is like a soft, sweet lullaby. I do not recall having one single complaint about her narration throughout the entire 11.5 hours and, for me, that's a rarity. ♣︎
➜ This audiobook was graciously gifted to me by its author, T. K. Thorne, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, T. K.!
-ebook. Asperger's syndrome is a very high functioning sort of autism, and the author chose to picture Noah's wife as having this. But in the long run, it was much more of a help than a hindrance. Picture a Father God and a Mother Goddess each with a bit different viewpoint on the story of Creation. then picture a snake's shedding of his old skin as an aphorism of new life. Also picture the possibility of a rather weak Adam pushing his wife into finding out some information for them, then using the information in not too bright a way. Also picture the possibility that since the middle heast was the known world in the historical tradition that so many of us grew up with, could it be possible that one of the many earthquakes at that time had a high enough intensity on the richter scale to really blow to smithereens and flood that whole world. It's a very readable book, good story, and has all the x rated qualities of the bearers of the "thou shalt not's" included along with the motivations that want you to understand why....(?). Anyhow I am going to give it four stars.
I was disappointed in this book, although it was not a bad book. The author gives us the story of the great flood through the eyes of Noah's wife, a young woman who has Asperger Syndrome. The book starts when she is a young girl, and attempts to illustrate what life was like at that time, most specifically for Na'amah, who has to be very careful because of her condition, or she could be outcast or pitted. The author also touches on the changing religious beliefs of the time, moving away from a Father God/Mother Goddess belief system, to a purely patriarchal Father God system. All of this is very confusing to Na'amah. Unfortunately (in my opinion) I don't believe the author's skills were up to her vision, and the book was pretty mundane. It probably didn't help that I had just read The Shape of Mercy, which was outstanding.
This was an interesting and thought provoking read. The author was able to provide enough visual detail for the story to come alive. Although a lot of the characterization of the heroine seemed to fit with my limited understanding of Asperger's Syndrome, some of the heroine's actions seemed a stretch to me. Overall the story line was plausible and did get me to thinking about historical truths and religion. I might be able to write a better review after I have digested it a little more.
I give this book four stars because of the evocative prose and that it drew me in right away with the main character. Na'mah having a form of autism added to her fleshing out as the future wife of Noah. Half way through the novel, though, I wished for the flood to start and for Na'mah to stop wandering all over, being kidnapped, etc. The flood plays almost no role in the book, and Noah fades into the background as the story progresses.
Not what I was expecting. Little is taken from the bible other than a big house boat, a flood, and names. I thoroughly enjoyed this story of how believers of different religions may have competed with each other 500BCE. Told by a woman who has Aspergers, and doesn’t understand the concept of belief in that way. All the family and friendship dynamics - the good, bad, very ugly and very beautiful - play out in this imaginative story. Information about the author is almost as interesting!
Noah’s Wife by T.K. Thorne is a 369-page novel selected as an OnlineBookClub Book of the Day for 25 February 2017. The Kindle edition is available from Amazon for USD 1.99 but there is a free sample. After reading the sample I couldn't resist buying the complete novel. For those who tend to click on things too fast (buy buttons) be careful here. There are two novels with the same title if you search on Amazon. This is the one with the cover that looks like big waves are coming. The other one, Noah's Wife by Lindsay Starck has people with umbrella's on the cover and costs a lot more.
A reader's immediate expectation is that we are going to read about a flood. It is no spoiler to mention that we will but it is a long way (pages) from the following opening two-sentence paragraph to the flood. My name, Na’amah, means pleasant or beautiful. I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful. Perhaps that is why I am trundled atop this beast like a roll of hides for market and surrounded by grim-faced men. (p. 1) That sentence is why I couldn't resist buying the book. This sentence appears in the prologue with the title 5521 BCE.
After the prologue, we shift back in time with Part I titled 5524 BCE followed by Part II titled 5521 BCE (like the prologue) and finally Part III titled 5500 BCE. This is followed by a highly informative 10-page postscript detailing the author's research underlying the historical part of this fine historical fiction work. That is followed by a glossary of character names which appeared too late for me. Although I would appreciate a glossary appearance at the front of the novel, it would detract from the value of an Amazon sample.
Each part describes a significant period of her life when dramatic events happen. In part one, Na'amah deals with Asperger's Syndrome. Her brother, Tubal, despises her and constantly tells her she is ugly and stupid. She is convinced she killed her mother with her birth. Tubal reinforces this idea every time he speaks to her. She does have a loving grandmother whose role becomes more important after her father dies while attempting to flee from a flood. Not THE flood, but a devastating one nevertheless for Na'amah's village.
In part one Na'amah will become quite familiar and comfortable with Yanner, a friend with whom she will spend a lot of time in hills while tending sheep. There probably will not be a romantic relationship with Yanner. Na'amah will not encourage it. She is betrothed to Noah in a marriage arranged by her father. Noah has promised to wait several years before consummation of the marriage. It would be nice for Na'amah to get through puberty first. Noah is a lot older than Na'amah but is impressed by her direct speaking style. It seems she cannot lie and she tells Noah what she thinks of him upon their first meeting.
After Tubal becomes the head of the family upon the death of their father, Tubal notices that Yanner seems to love his ugly sister. Tubal may or may not hate Noah, but it was Tubal's father that arranged Na'amah's marriage to Noah, a marriage that Na'amah seems to accept. Tubal hates Na'amah and Yanner is Tubal's friend. Tubal decides to make a change to the arrangement and promises Yanner Na'amah as his wife. This is done more out of his hatred for Na'amah rather than a fondness for his friend. This conflict between Na'amah and her brother will lead to her running away from her village. It will lead to her capture by slavers. They want to sell her and other captured women to their King. She will escape from the slavers and try to reach the refuge of a religious sect that worships a supreme power that is female, Up to this point, there are no spoilers because by the title of the book readers can be confident that she escaped from the slavers and that Noah is the ultimate winner in the relationship department. After this point, spoilers become a problem.
This novel has a character driven story of the competition for believers in a true religion. Is the true religion patriarchal or matriarchal as far as legitimacy? Tubal fights many followers from the matriarchal camp. Na'amah is not interested in either being in power or acting as a power broker.
The book has interesting insights into building a really big boat. Noah uses methods of construction innovative at the time. An interior fireplace on a wooden boat was new. The attention paid to sealing material and the need for frequent maintenance is interesting. Notes on diversity in agricultural methods and distribution were interesting. Different results achieved by different groups living comparatively closely together might have encouraged socialization as one group discovered, perhaps through traveling trade shows and merchants, that the neighbors were a bit better off.
There are many interesting comments on peripheral supporting information that are provided as bonus entertainment. The frequent referral to cave paintings could have been left out entirely but the inclusion contributes a lot to how some of the characters support their beliefs.
This is a thoughtful read, something not to be rushed, and something the reader may want to come back to, especially when referring sections to friends.
This may not be suitable for strict, orthodox believers of the Christian religion who believe in a literal meaning of every word in the Bible.
Na’amah is different from the others in the village. Her hearing is uniquely acute as is her memory, but she lacks womanly skills such as weaving and spinning. Noah is a bit of an odd duck who lives outside the village where it’s convenient to steal logs from the beavers with which to build boats. He sees Na’amah in the market and smitten by her beauty, so he asks her father for her hand and receives it with the understanding that he will wait three years to take his bride who was young even for those days. Na’amah’s older brother, Tubal, is an abusive bastard who resents the fact that their mother died giving birth to Na’amah.
The one thing Na’amah loves to do is tend the sheep. She often shares the task with her childhood friend, Yanner, who develops a strong desire for her and conspires with Tubal to prevent her from marrying Noah. The plan is if she isn’t a virgin, Noah will reject her, so on the eve of the wedding, Tubal engineers for Yanner to forcibly rape her. For good measure, they also attack Noah and break his leg. Na’amah flees the village and is captured by slave traders before she reaches the sanctuary of the Mother Goddess’s cave.
Noah’s Wife is an engaging story that put me in mind of The Clan of the Cave Bear. As historical fiction, it resonates with verisimilitude and is not a retelling of Genesis. An unusual dynamic among the characters permeates the story in a curious way. The setting and the customs of the people seem real enough. Na’amah is a convincing and likeable character. The prose is clean and flowing if a little flowery for this reader’s taste. Ms. Thorne is fond of using unconventional verbs to describe actions in nature and more metaphors than I prefer. Most readers will find her style lovely and descriptive. There are scenes that I thought went on a little longer than was needed, but it did not diminish my enjoyment of the book.
I liked it! It was an interesting story with strong characters that kept me wanting to read until the end. The author skillfully weaves a very accurate portrayal of Asperger's in with descriptions of life in ancient Anatolia within the context of re-telling the story of the flood within a secular and feminist context. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Na'amah and "her" animals and the connection she had with the natural world around her.
In the end, though, the story really didn't seem like much more than a life of pain, betrayal and struggle only to end with a catastrophic event that wiped out all comforts, all relationship outside of her family and left them starting over without a reason. In the biblical narrative, there is a purpose, a greater intelligence behind the events and greater destiny on the other side of the events. To me, it's the difference between a familiar and beloved story of characters who are blessed and who are part of our greater collective purpose re-told as a story about strangers who endure life even when it gets hard, but without the knowledge of the greater purpose and blessing behind those events.
Still, I'd recommend Noah's Wife as a good story that is well-told. Just don't read it expecting it to be something it's not.
Simply amazing! There are just so many positives that I don’t know where to begin. Let’s start with Na’amah. She is such a great role model for many women out there. She is not afraid to believe in what she believes in, she doesn’t bend to society’s views of women, her thoughts are original, and she is extremely strong-willed. I mean venturing through the woods on your own when you are pregnant for the first time in order to escape from those who captured you? My praises to her!
The other aspect that really makes that sets this apart is the twist of the classic Biblical tale of “Noah’s Ark”. In the version that we know, there is God who informs Noah of the upcoming flood. However, in this fictional tale, there is a Father God and a Mother Goddess, and the driving force in this story is definitely female. Though the story that Thorne tells isn’t real, it was a nice surprise of how important the female role was here.
Noah’s Wife reminded me a great deal of The Clan of the Cave Bear. Na’amah, like Ayla, is intelligent and strong and loves caring for the sheep and is also great with a sling. She has no interest in marriage and has a lot of difficulty with social interactions with others. It’s a time when many gods and goddesses are worshipped, but many of the men are starting to want to have one main god to worship and do away with worshipping goddesses. When Noah meets Na’amah in the village, he is struck by her beauty and goes to her family to ask for her hand in marriage. Although he is much older, Na’amah is impressed by his kindness. Then she is kidnapped by slavers and both Noah and her childhood friend, Yanner, set off to rescue her. This is a very different take on the story of Noah and the ark, and I found it very interesting and believable. A well-told tale with excellent historical research.
A truly beautiful and inspirational read that I won't forget for many years. Na'amah is a beautifully written character who pulls on all my emotions and made me love this book so much. The simplicity and complexity of the way she sees the world around, how she is connected to it all, now she moved through such terrible things happening to her.
Just an amazing book. Religion aside it promotes free thinking, questioning all that we can't see or touch yet also acknowledging the fact that we are all connected to something far larger than us as humans.
A book which will capture anyone interested in how things might have been. I chose this book because I had read Angels At The Gate and wanted to read any book of historical fiction by this author. Now, having finished this, I want to read whatever this author writes!!
Cut to the Chase: This book is a wonderfully plotted, concisely written, enthralling blend of adventure, romance, fantasy and (lots-of-creative-license-taken) history. It begins a bit slowly: our heroine Na’amah is a young, innocent girl who takes a bit of patience to get used to initially (she’s just that green and naive). But… and this is a big but… like a classical concerto, it really builds, and though the anticipated flood (the title does after all refer to Noah’s wife) is one of the climaxes, it is not the only highpoint — there are several, very well plotted twists throughout the novel. I thought it began fairly well (like I said, a little slow, but still very readable), built up rather quickly, and by the middle, I was thoroughly entranced. The characters Thorne has created here are wonderfully complex, layered, and memorable, and this is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this past year.
Greater Detail: You can tell from the above that I love this book, so I’ll start then with the few quibbles I have with it:
1. Na’amah starts as one of those girls who’s so innocent and naive you almost want to sit her down and give her a talk, or two, or three. The author explains the character creation in the appendices (spoilers below) and I’m not sure I totally love that explanation… but just know that Na’amah starts a little overly-innocent-naive, and that, despite this, men seem to want her, and you wonder, really? Is it just because she’s supposedly beautiful?
2. The title of this book is… I don’t know… You pick it up expecting a bit of Biblical fiction/romance/etc. but though Na’amah eventually claims the title of Noah’s wife as her identity, it is truly merely one of her many titles and characterizations throughout the book. And.. I think if you pick it up expecting more Biblical references, or some grand love story between Noah and Na’amah, you will be disappointed. Noah is clearly a starting inspiration, and though he’s a stalwart presence in the book, it’s much more about the author’s imagined landscape of that time and place: the religious battles (again, lots of creative license taken) between Father God, Hunter Clans, and Mother Earth/Priestesses, the culture clashes, different tribes, beliefs, and rituals (none of that is usually my thing, but it all worked well here). So… I felt as though the title of this book might make you pigeon-hole it a bit unjustly…
3. The beginning… really is just a bit slower, like the author is finding her way (as Na’amah grows). It’s not a terrible beginning, but it truly doesn’t live up to the action, attention to detail, twists and characterizations of the later pages. Otherwise, I loved this book. The romance in it, in some ways, is truly hard to classify because she’s written in a layered way about love that is hard to classify: familial love that is complicated by guilt and duty, the love between friends that can be both sexual and sexless, companionship, motherhood, love of animals (again, see the title of the book), and even truly forbidden love and lust. Yet this book is not a romance. Though you follow a young woman near the beginning, it’s also really not necessarily a young adult novel (spoilers below). It truly is a wonderful blend of many different genres, and though Na’amah grows on your steadily, it is probably some of the side characters, men who loved and hated her, villains who are multi-layered (which I love, love, love) and believably tortured and complex, that will stay with me, and draw me back for a second read.
Spoilers: So, in the appendices, the author says that she envisioned Na’amah has having Asperger’s disorder, and while I can see this (looking back retrospectively) I almost wish that I hadn’t read that — I liked it better when I felt that Na’amah was just a little more different and unique as opposed to having a particular label that I now have to question a little. Also… the reason I would not classify this as strictly YA is because of the rapes that take place, which may be difficult scenes for a younger audience.
Comparisons to Other Authors/Books: In many ways, this reminded me most of some of the fantasy novels I’ve read and enjoyed — even though it supposedly takes place in 5500 BC, it’s the author’s imagined version of that time period, and so we frequently have to pause the telling of the story (especially near the beginning) to explain things like: this marked him as Hunter Clan, this made him the heir according to our law, etc. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, so I don’t mind that, but it does slow down the flow of the story. I think books like the Jean M. Auel The Clan of the Cave Bear series are good comparisons, since they followed a younger female protagonist through an imagined historical landscape, though I always found those much, much slower and kind of weighted down by the sex scenes sometimes. More similar to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, this is an enclosed story beginning to end (though you can almost guess the ending that it’s going towards) that kind of has its inspiration rooted in a personage that is a mere footnote in the Bible (though I have to admit I liked this better than The Red Tent, which I felt was a little more trapped/defined by that starting point).
This book was an interesting mix of feminism, mythology, and environmentalism rolled into a single tale of a woman who is only mentioned in passing in the biblical narrative of Genesis (4:22). I found it compelling and actually scientifically accurate for the time period -- using the Black Sea deluge as the explanation for the flood. While I am a Christian, I find most Old Testament stories to be more mythological in their nature - much like Aesop's fables, as stories with a moral to them. There are so many things we know for sure that it's just almost impossible to take too much of their "miracle" status seriously now, but for people of that era, miraculous favor (or anger) from the gods would be the only thing that made sense to them. Everything about this novel really sat well with my belief system, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to.
I got this book in the Historical Novel Society Conference goodie-bag and was intrigued. Asperger's runs in my family, so I was curious as to how Thorne would handle that aspect of her debut novel. She states in her Acknowledgements and Postscript that she doesn't have Asperger Syndrome and relied on research and particularly the writings of Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-known speaker and writer on the topic. (Dr. Grandin also has Asperger's.) For the most part, I felt she got it right. As she notes, this is a neurological condition that runs a vast spectrum of behaviors and can present as a severe disability up to creative genius. Every person with AS presents differently, but they all share a common difficulty with social engagement. They are "clueless" until they figure out, or someone teaches them, the social rules that most children seem to absorb with no instruction. There's no reason to believe Asperger's didn't exist in 5500 BCE, but, from a Darwinian point of view, it was probably very rare. Loners, folks who didn't "belong" or conform to group norms, would have had a significant survival disadvantage. This is how Na'amah describes herself:
"My name, Na'amah, means pleasant or beautiful. I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful. Perhaps that is why I am trundled atop this beast like a roll of hides for market and surrounded by grim-faced men. If my captors had bothered to ask me, I would have told them that their prize is of questionable value because my mind is damaged…Memories appear as images in my mind. Each word-sound I hear has its own color and shape and they fit together with the others in patterns that I can recall as easily as I can name every sheep on my hillside…I speak only truth, unwise as it may be, since lies distress me…my words and manner seem odd to other people. I am more comfortable with animals, who do not expect me to be any way than the way I am."
Na'amah is an appealing first person character and, in one sense, an unreliable narrator. Because of her autism, she misses the nuances in others' behavior, facial expressions and voice. The author has to give the reader clues through Na'amah's descriptions about what is "really" going on—a tricky proposition and usually handled well. Where it falls down is with Tubal, Na'amah's brother and nemesis. He is an irredeemably evil character (and therefore boring) from the first pages. Na'amah knows him as a bully with a burning hatred for her. As the story continues, he breaks every (to be written) commandment in the Good Book. The readers have no clue as to why that might be, except that his mother died at Na'amah's birth. Because we can't see the nuances, we find out his motivation far too late in the book. Any chance that he might be a complicated (and, therefore, more interesting) character is lost in Na'amah's black and white world.
Thorne does build a believable prehistoric society. Technology and agriculture are appropriate for the age. I found the (Earth) Mother Goddess/(Sky) Father God dichotomy a bit religiously simplistic. Most of the evidence we have points to our ancestors' profound belief in the supernatural, with spirits and "gods" inhabiting every niche of the unknown. The concept of being able to harm others through supernatural means surely did exist and any "odd" person would be at risk for expulsion or other harm, even death. Na'amah's religious skepticism and her awareness of its dangers, is nicely portrayed: "I loved stories, though many of them were not truth. People pretended they were, so sometimes I did too, but I had never seen Mother Goddess or Father God…Speaking such thoughts would get me thrown into the pit. My mind might be damaged, but I was not stupid."
As to the flood? This is not your Bible story. No Heavenly Being giving directions. No animals trooping two by two (sorry dragons and unicorns who didn't make it on the boat!) But I like this story better. Thorne uses archaeological and geological evidence to put her fictional characters in a real catastrophic situation that might very well have happened. The echoes of that catastrophe have come down to us as fable and myth. Much more satisfying!
In summary, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a good debut novel. The story is engaging and moves along well. The setting is unique and interesting. The science and history seem to be solid. My only complaint is that the characters, in general, were a little two-dimensional; but that could be an artifact of the Aspie POV and, therefore, brilliant writing.
WordsAPlenty was provided a copy of this book by the author for an honest review.
It is difficult for one to imagine living in 5500 BE and comprehend the societal norms of that time period. T.K. Thorne crafts an amazing story weaving it carefully with myth, biblical and historical facts about one woman’s struggle; a woman overshadowed by her husband Noah’s prominence in history. Thorne provides an extraordinary tale that is tender, horrific and riveting.
5500 BE was a time in which societal norms allowed cultural, relationships, social roles, religion and expectations to be one sided and unfair as well as violent. One young woman named Na’amah, her name meaning beautiful and pleasant, suffers from a condition that prevents her from lying and allows her to see things differently and more clearly than most (this condition is now known as Asperger’s).
“Whenever things got too confusing, I rocked and sang, so I did that. Savata said the Goddess graced my voice in compensation for my other faults. I hugged my knees to my chest, closed my eyes and sang softly, rocking my upper body in rhythm with the tune, a shepherd’s song of stars and the stir of sheep in moonlight.”
Shunned by her brother because their mother died in childbirth, Na’amah suffers many indignations that are violent and shaming. As a result of her brothers violent and hateful actions, Na’amah is captured and prepared for life as a slave. She further experiences a loss so great that she fears there will be no return.
For Na’amah and her village, religion has played a major role in their lives, but she questions the existence of Father God and Mother Goddess.
“How could the world have turned from joy to disaster in such a short spate of time? Most would blame the gods, looking for how they had offended or failed to honor them. Perhaps I should. Perhaps Father God and Mother Goddess were angry with me for my disbelief and punished me. For the first time, I wanted to believe for reasons beyond the fact that a slip of tongue could get me thrown in the pit. Believing would give me some measure of comfort, some chance for control.”
Na’amah must overcome debilitating loss, struggle through relationships and find her way back home to Noah, her grandmother and help save her people.
Thorne presents her readers with recurring issues that members of society continue to struggle with today; she presents them in a creative and engrossing manner. Carefully woven with biblical and mythical accounts, historical events and facts, Thorne intertwines her rich and colorful imagination into this tale of Noah’s wife.
I read this book in one sitting because I simply could not put it down. It was absolutely a fascinating and consuming tale that has been creatively crafted to draw its reader in. Thorne develops and grows her characters in a realistic and engaging manner that shows a wide range of emotions and depth – tenderness, love, hatred, fear and bravery. Rich in vivid imagery, Thorne’s story is told from a woman’s view but captures the male elements expertly.
Thorne is a creative and masterful story teller, researching and blending her imagination into an engagingly rich story. I look forward to reading more by her!
This is an amazing book. One that I highly recommend. WordsAPlenty proudly awards this book with a five-star rating.
I grew up hearing the story of Noah in Sunday School, as, I imagine, did many children, and when I was offered the chance to review a book about his wife, I was intrigued. I‰Ûªll admit that I harbored a little fear that this story would be religious and perhaps somewhat preachy, and was pleasantly surprised that it was anything but. There was a LOT of story here‰Û_and I loved every page.
Ms. Thorne truly brought an old Bible fable to life and made it seem less like a work of fiction than like a true-to-life tale. Na‰Ûªamah was interesting and I didn‰Ûªt find her to be ‰Û÷damaged‰Ûª at all. The way she was presented made her an interesting, unique, and complex character with enough flaws and shortcomings to make her relatable. I found myself crying for her at a number of points and rooting for her at others. I enjoy stories about strong wom
en, and Na‰Ûªamah didn‰Ûªt disappoint! By comparison, the other characters‰ÛÓNoah, Inka, Vashti, and the rest‰ÛÓwere fairly flat. I would like to have seen more development in them, but as this was primarily Na‰Ûªamah‰Ûªs story, it wasn‰Ûªt a deal breaker.
The writing style was a little odd for me in places; time being skipped from one paragraph to the next where I would usually expect a chapter break and the dialogue formatting sometimes made it hard to figure out who was speaking. Overall, I felt like it fit the somewhat simple, blunt, and odd way in which Na‰Ûªamah herself was portrayed. There were a couple of times in the middle where I wasn‰Ûªt exactly bored but wishing the story would move a bit faster or there‰Ûªd be some action. I‰Ûªm usually tempted to start skimming when that happens but am so glad I didn‰Ûªt, because I would have missed a huge twist/revelation. I think I‰Ûªd have regretted the need to go back and fish it out if I‰Ûªd missed it by letting
my impatience get the better of me.
I said before that I was afraid this would be super religious and preachy and was glad it wasn‰Ûªt. Don‰Ûªt be fooled, however, because there is a religious undertone throughout. It was an interesting one, though, and ‰ÛÏNoah‰Ûªs Wife‰Û would have been lackluster without it. I‰Ûªve read other stories in which The Goddess or the Earth Mother was worshiped, but to see her presented in duality with a Father God was refreshing. The gender of God is something I‰Ûªve discussed and heard discussed in a number of settings, and it seems logical for there to be male and female aspects. The fact that Ms. Thorne was able to address this without shoving either down the reader‰Ûªs throat was very much appreciated.
Alas, there was the occasional typo as well, which was disappointing. ‰ÛÏNoah‰Ûªs Wife‰Û could have used another run through by an editor or Ms. Thorne, but as the errors weren‰Ûªt pervasive, they didn‰Ûªt really affect my
enjoyment of the story.
Bottom line: ‰ÛÏNoah‰Ûªs Wife‰Û was a beautiful story and if Ms. Thorne decides to take on other obscure women (whether biblical or not), I‰Ûªd pick them up with pleasure. I highly recommend this to anyone who‰Ûªs ever wondered ‰ÛÏHuh, I wonder how his wife fit into all this?‰Û and for those who love a strong heroine.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, and by the path of the story. I honestly expected something a bit preachy (given exactly what it's about, and what little I knew about it), but it really isn't. It does have religion, but I love the way it was handled. I love the inclusion of synesthesia (though, I wish it had played a bigger role). And I love that darn bird.
uthor 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 sensitive 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.