Book Review

Naamah by Sarah Blake

I adored this complicated feminist retelling of Noah and the flood, from the perspective of his bisexual wife Naamah. It’s mysterious and sad and hopeful and never easy - like life.

With the coming of the Great Flood—the mother of all disasters—only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. Now, in a work of astounding invention, acclaimed writer Sarah Blake reclaims the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. Here is the woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures, silently 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. Here is the 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. 

In fresh and modern language, Blake revisits the story of the Ark that rescued life on earth, and rediscovers the agonizing burdens endured by the woman at the heart of the story. Naamah is a parable for our time: a provocative fable of body, spirit, and resilience.

Goodreads

I adored this complicated feminist retelling of Noah and the flood, from the perspective of his bisexual wife Naamah. It’s mysterious and sad and hopeful and never easy – like life.

I grew up with Bible stories, and (spoiler!) they are overwhelming male stories about men doing things with other men. When a woman exists in the story, she is usually nameless, as Noah’s wife is. Blake names her Naamah, which is the name of a demon in Jewish mysticism. This is fitting, because she is a wild woman, desperately unhappy to live with the burden of surviving a worldwide disaster, angry at God for causing it, and acting out her grief in healthy and unhealthy ways. She’s deeply sensual and very opinionated. And the kicker? It’s all of these unruly qualities that makes God (or his representation in this novel) like her. Not to get too personal, but this was revelatory and healing for me as I try to reconcile what faith looks like for me as an adult.

Naamah (both the woman and the book) wrestles with themes of unimportance and identity. “What makes a woman a woman?” is echoed throughout the book, especially with the awesome dreams with an angelic Sarai (another biblical woman who was given short shrift compared to her husband).

Speaking of angels! The Angel and Metatron are fascinating. I love an asshole vulture angel. Some of the more outlandish ideas – like Naamah having sex with an angel – is all the more delightful because there IS a biblical precedent for it.

And I guess, speaking of sex! There is a lot of it. Naamah is a very body-centric person, and it was satisfying to read about a middle-aged woman who processed joy and pain through sex. She’s an excellently written bisexual woman who loves her husband and also loves the women she sleeps with. It’s complicated and messy and very real.

I don’t know if this book would speak to people who weren’t raised deeply evangelical the way it did me, but I loved seeing a story I thought I knew from a very different perspective, and being led into grief, hope, and healing in a way that felt more biblical than the Genesis story.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4 comments on “Naamah by Sarah Blake

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