“For a woman sentenced by God, Naamah is surprised by how often He allows her to take a god-like role.”
Naamah A Novel (2019) by Sarah Blake imagines Noah’s wife, from the time the ark floats away until it is time to resettle the world. But Blake doesn’t just reinterpret the story as Anita Diamant did with the biblical Dinah in The Red Tent (1998). Instead, Blake writes a tale with dreams, angels, and the bending of time.
I enjoyed reading this book. I read it, in just two afternoons but I don’t know if I can recommend it. I predict people will have strong reactions, either loving it or just not getting it. There are some shocking scenes. There is sex without romance that is described in vivid detail.
It seems appropriate that I finished reading Naamah the same day I marched in a Pride Parade with my synagogue. This book had the most detailed lesbian sex descriptions that I have ever read. Naamah is sexually active with male, female, and those without a solid gender. Sexuality of all kinds, has been around since the beginning of people. Blake’s novel expresses this fact beautifully.
God is referred to in the masculine but this book is definitely a feminist look at the story of the ark. Naamah is tasked with tending to the animals and in many cases, she alone determines who will live and who will die. She is the mother of all future people, yet not given her due in biblical re-tellings until now.
The Novel, Kaddish.com (2019) By Nathan Englander also has a shocking sexual scene. It reminded me of Portnoy’s Complaint by Phillip Roth (1969). Kaddish.com gets to the heart of our obligation to our tradition and heritage. Can we run away from the way we were raised? In this book, an orthodox man turns secular and then is forced by his traditional family, to confront his obligation to say Kaddish for his father. I found it thought-provoking and affirming of my life choices; it is another book I think people will either be thrilled with or disgusted by.
If you read either Naamah or Kaddish.com let me know your reaction.