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Cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, the young heroine in The Sinners and the Sea is deprived even of a name for fear that it would make it easier for people to spread lies about her. But this virtuous woman has the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories live anew.
Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a land of outcasts. Noah, a 600-year-old paragon of virtue, rises to the role of preacher to a town full of sinners. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife gives him three sons, but is faced with the hardship of living with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than with her. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite a pious upbringing, have developed some sinful tendencies of their own. But her trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world.
Kanner weaves a masterful tale that breathes new life into one of the Bible’s voiceless characters. Through the eyes of Noah’s wife we see a complex world where the lines between righteousness and wickedness blur. And we are left wondering: Would I have been considered virtuous enough to save?
I am crushed, I mean devastated, that I find myself sitting here writing this review tonight. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe, but in all honestly I cannot express how sad I am that Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner was such a disappointment.
I enjoy reading Christian Fiction and Bible Fiction but I have to tell you – a lot of it is crap. It wasn’t until I discovered The Thief by Stephanie Landsem that I started reading it again. It is a re-imagining of the lives and backgrounds of the two thieves that were crucified next to Jesus Christ. It’s amazing! She has such a unique perspective on their lives and the events that led them to their deaths. She mentions Jesus in the book but doesn’t attempt to make Him a central character. I have loved everything I’ve read by Stephanie Landsem so I don’t think you can really go wrong with anything she has written.
I also read Daughter of the King by Carlene Havel and Sharon Faucheux. It’s a fictional tale of King David and his first wife, Michal (daughter of King Saul). When I first read it I loved her storytelling but I wasn’t blown away by the book. The thing is, I read this book years ago and I can still recall every detail of the book so these ladies did something right. It’s a different take on David and Michal’s relationship but it was a good book.
Since I enjoyed those two so much I really thought I’d like Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner but unfortunately, I was wrong. SO wrong.
I’m going to start with the positives because I like to keep things as positive as possible for as long as possible. Rebecca Kanner is a remarkable storyteller! There is no doubt that she is immensely talented. I mean, this book got so far inside of my head that the night I finished it I actually dreamed about the Noah’s Ark and the great flood. Honestly. DREAMED it. Only a talented author can get that far inside of my head.
All of the characters were great although Ona did disappear for a long time while they were aboard the ark. I actually found myself thinking at one point, “Where did Ona go? Did she die and I just glazed over while that happened? Where is she?” and then the author brought her back out of the belly of the ark. It felt like Kanner wasn’t sure how to incorporate her pregnancy in to the story during the events that transpired on deck so she just hid her below with the animals for a few scenes. Bummer.
The point is, my issue is not with Kanner’s writing at all. Her writing is incredible and if this wasn’t the tale of Noah’s Ark I would probably be singing her praises from the rooftops!
But, this is the story of Noah’s Ark.
Now, before you scream at me that it’s fiction and that authors can write fiction however they please let me just add the following sentiment. Historical Fiction is fiction yet I expect the historical details to be accurate. When the historical details are changed it’s called Alternate History. I know Biblical Fiction is fiction, yet I expect Biblical details to be accurate. I feel like Kanner let me down there. #sorrynotsorry
Kanner handled Noah’s age well in the novel (he was at least 500 years old when his sons were born) and she introduced the Nephilim which I appreciated (although, did they need to have purple hair? That was odd). She incorporated the Bible verses the reference the Nephilim loving the daughters of man and having children by them. Bravo, Kanner!
My issue was with Noah and his family. I just couldn’t find it in myself to come to terms with Kanner’s portrayal of Noah, his wife, their sons, and their sons wives in Sinners and the Sea. Noah was neglectful, disconnected from his family, and generally aloof. He spread his faith in God throughout the town with a loud shouting judgement and was generally considered a raving madman. His wife was portrayed as a woman that didn’t even believe in the “God of Adam” as Noah referred to Him and was always internally debating whether or not God was even real. She questioned Noah and repeatedly tried to trick him in to changing his mind (taking advantage of his age and failing eyesight). Their sons were even worse! One had a raging, nearly unquenchable bloodlust; another was an adulterer that frequently visited whores, and the other was depicted as a simple fool.
Let’s not even get me started on the son’s wives! One was a whore. One was an extremely arrogant and self-absorbed 7-year old child. The other was the mentally-challenged “simpleton” daughter of a whore.
Sorry…explain to me again why God saved these 8 people out of all of mankind? He didn’t. God saved Noah and his family because they were righteous in a world full of sin. God didn’t save Noah and his family because they sinned in all of the same ways as everyone else just maybe a little less frequently.
I just expected to read a different type of story.
I expected that Noah and his family would be righteous; worthy of being saved. I expected the details of Sorum (their town), the town residents, the world of sin, the Nephilim, the animals, the flooding, the search for dry land, etc. to be fictionalized but I wanted to meet the Noah who was so faithful and good that God saved him to start the world over.
It’s a bummer I didn’t get to meet that guy and that family. If I had, this would have been an incredible book. As it is, it’s an extremely well-written book but you just have to know that you won’t like Noah, his wife, their sons, their sons wives, or pretty much any other character.
(Oh, and ironically, Stephanie Landsem rated this book 5-stars so what do I really know anyway? You might love it too. I’ll also note that the authors are with the same publisher so there’s that. Maybe just check it out for yourself if you’re interested).