In Anne Provoost's In the Shadow of the Ark
, Re Jana and her fishing family have fled their overflowing marshes to find work with thousands of others in the desert territory of the Rrattika: "the people who wander." One of the wanderers, a mad man named Noach, is building a huge ship in the middle of the desert. Re Janas father, a shipwright, reluctantly joins the community of workers who have made their homes at the base of the ark. Re Jana, a healer and masseuse, charms Ham, one of Noachs sons, with her scented oils and her talent for divining a particularly sweet water source. She is initially amused, and then slowly alarmed at his insistence that his fathers god will create a flood mighty enough to lift the great ark from the desert floor. Despite the fact that Ham chooses another woman for his wife, Re Jana is sure that his true love for her and her family will insure them a place upon the ship, should the rains really come. Her father, hedging his bets, builds a boat in secret, hoping to cheat Noachs god, who has declared that only Noach and his family will survive the looming deluge. As Re Jana struggles to understand how any god could be so unfeeling as to wipe out all life, the waters begin to rise. As the terrifying prophecy unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear to the doubters that Noachs mad ravings were true. Will Re Jana and her family survive the flood? For the sake of all mankind, they must try.
Belgian author Anne Provoost has taken a familiar Bible story and created an epic so panoramic that we see this long vanished world through new eyes. Provoost is a powerful storyteller who creates secondary characters that are just as vibrant and luminous as her curious and questioning adolescent narrator. Readers will ache with the foreknowledge of the storys end, hoping that the people they have come to know and cherish will escape their seemingly inevitable fate. Weaving together timeless themes of justice, faith, love and hope, In the Shadow of the Ark is at once classic and immediate, completely familiar, and yet radically indefinable. Masterpiece is not too strong a word to describe this all-encompassing story. Pair it with Elsie Aidinoffs The GardenThe Garden or The Red Tent by Anita Diamant for a provocative mother-daughter book discussion.--Jennifer Hubert
From School Library Journal
Grade 11 Up–This novel has a biblical backdrop, but unfortunately, the passage in which it is grounded (Genesis 7:11) is better than the story this author works too hard to create. "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of the heaven were opened." Provoost relates the well-known story about the building and sailing of Noah's ark, but the pacing is slow, the characters are simplistic and undeveloped, and the prose is uneven and wordy. Re Jana, an outsider due to her race and background, is the daughter of a shipbuilder seeking work, and upon arriving at Noah's shipyard with her family, she meets Ham, a privileged son of the Great Builder (Noah). Their love is built on their sexual attraction, and they work hard for Re Jana and her father to become "chosen by the Unnameable" (the Christian term for God) to board the ark in an effort to escape the impending and life-threatening downpour. The writing is adult in tone and sensibility, and few teens will be engaged enough to grapple with the philosophical concerns it raises about who is chosen and who is left behind. In the end, this book should remain "in [a] shadow."–Kelly Berner Richards, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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