From Publishers Weekly
Visitations from God are a mixed blessing for Noah and his family in Maine's spirited, imaginative debut. Noah (aka "Noe") may have pissed himself upon hearing God's instructions to build an arc, but he sets to the task without delay. He crosses the desert to buy lumber from giants; his eldest, Sem, fetches Cham, the son with shipbuilding skills; Sem's wife, Bera, and Cham's wife, Ilya, gather the animals; and Japheth, Noe's youngest, helps, too, in between goofing off and "rutting" with wife Mirn. And, of course, there's "the wife," 600-year-old Noe's once-teenage bride, who takes everything "Himself" (that's Noe, not God) dishes out with time-tested practicality. Wildly different in temperament, age and provenance, these characters, each telling part of the story, help create a brilliant kaleidoscopic analysis of the situation: the neighbors who ridicule Noe and clan; the inner doubts and shifting alliances; the varying feelings toward God, whose presence is always felt and sometimes resented. The flood comes as a relief from the wondering ("who is crazier: the crazy man or the people who put their faith in him?"), but hardship soon follows. Though the ending is already written, Maine enlivens every step toward it with small surprises. A story of faith and survival (think Life of Pi
thousands of years earlier with a much larger cast of characters), this debut is a winner.
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Using just a few chapters from Genesis as his base, Maine fleshes out the story of Noah and his ark, making it both realistic--with touches of wry humor--and wondrous. Maine's Noe is an old man, implacable in believing in Yahweh's righteousness even while he is plagued by dreadful dreams. His story is told in the third person, in chapters alternating with first-person accounts by his family members--the unnamed wife and three sons and daughters-in-law: obedient Sem and wife Bera, irreverent Cham and wife Ilya, and exuberant Japheth and wife Mirn-- resulting in multiple views that add richness to the tale. These are full-dimensional characters, the men diligent and the women resourceful; particularly Ilya, but also Bera, show flashes of feminism in gathering animals (dangerous duty) and questioning what Yahweh has wrought. And there's no stinting the reality of almost 18 months on the ark: mucking out dung, confronting ferocious beasts, contending with numbing boredom and understandable spats, and enough rutting (in Maine's words) to make all three young women pregnant. A literary debut that makes a familiar story enthralling. Michele LeberCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved