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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 dramatic? Maybe, but in all honesty, 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 it wasn’t until I discovered The Thief by Stephanie Landsem that I started reading more of it. The Thief is a reimagining of the lives of the thieves that were crucified next to Jesus Christ. She has a unique perspective on their lives and the events that led to their deaths. She mentions Jesus but doesn’t attempt to make Him a central character. I have loved everything I’ve read by Stephanie Landsem and don’t feel you can 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). I loved her storytelling but wasn’t blown away by the book. I read this book years ago though and can still recall every detail of the book so those 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 thought I’d like Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner but unfortunately, I was wrong.
Rebecca Kanner is a remarkable storyteller and there is no doubt she is immensely talented. This book got so far inside my head that I actually dreamed about the Noah’s Ark and the great flood on the night I finished it.
All of the characters were great although Ona disappeared for a long time while they were aboard the ark. I found myself thinking at one point, “Where did Ona go? Did she die and I just glazed over while it happened?” 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 into the story during the events that transpired on deck so she just hid her below with the animals for a few scenes.
My issue with Sinners and the Sea 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 but, this is the story of Noah’s Ark.
I know it’s fiction and authors can write fiction however they please but this is sold as Bible fiction so 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 and I 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 judgment and was considered a raving madman. His wife was portrayed as not believing in the God of Adam and was constantly debating whether or not God was even real. She questioned Noah and repeatedly tried to trick him into changing his mind (taking advantage of his age and failing eyesight). Their sons were even worse.
One son had a raging unquenchable bloodlust; another was an adulterer that visited whores, while the last was depicted as a simple fool. One of the wives was a whore, another an arrogant and self-absorbed 7-year old child, the last was the mentally-challenged daughter of a town whore.
Explain to me again why God saved these 8 people out of all of mankind? 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 in Sinners and the Sea.
I expected Noah and his family to be righteous. 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 disappointing that I didn’t get to meet that guy and family. If I had, this would have been an incredible book. As it is, it’s a well-written book but you won’t like Noah, his wife, their sons, their sons’ wives, or any other character.
(Oh, and ironically, Stephanie Landsem rated this book 5-stars so what do I really know anyway?)