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Noah's Wife


Noah's Wife

The titular character in Lindsay Starck’s debut novel has no name. She’s simply known as the wife of a minister, Noah. That seems sexist in today’s society, but this fanciful allegory is presumably set in mid-century America, given references to station wagons, rabbit-ear TV antennae, and a visiting weatherman, not meteorologist.

Weatherman Jonas is a harbinger of doom, bearing meteorological charts and graphs. Villagers feel “as though the sun has never risen over their town at all, not ever; that its very existence is nothing but a rumor.” Most townsfolk, however, have already abandoned this nameless burg that had only one claim to fame: a zoo that no longer attracts thousands of visitors. In fact, now, none. “Nobody goes to the zoo in the rain.”

"As with THE CANTERBURY TALES, Starck’s poetic prose...details motivations of each character in chapter-length depth. And like Chaucer’s epic poems, NOAH’S WIFE is destined to become classic literature."

When villagers quit congregating in the town’s only church high on a hill, the former minister walks into the river. Suicide? Solo baptism? Noah feels that he is called here, to restore the church building and residents’ faith. After only one sermon, though, the denizens chide Noah’s inability to stop the rain. Noah is defeated, dismal as the sunless sky.

This place seems “like a fable --- a murky little town bedded down among the hills, beset by bad weather and capricious personalities.” The menagerie of characters includes zookeeper Adam, Dr. April Yu, likable Mauro and mousy Leesl. And then there’s the indomitable town matriarch. “Mrs. McGinn is a woman of strong convictions, but she is no fool; she knows that when people leave, they never come back.” The women in this novel are the strong ones; the men are as transparent as raindrops that fall upon “umbrellas blooming in vivid bouquets.” And Noah’s wife leads the rescue brigade.

The weatherman’s predictions ring true. The zoo is flooded, and townsfolk take the animals into their homes, housing the penguins in the freezer of Mrs. McGinn’s diner. The villagers believe, at Mrs. McGinn’s insistence, that when the rain ends, the zoo will be restored. They fail to realize that people came to visit the zoo, not the animals, much as people visit a forest, not individual trees. With a rising river dooming the town, the “dumb” animals seek high ground, leading villagers to the church perched on the highest hill --- something Noah could not accomplish.

As with THE CANTERBURY TALES, Starck’s poetic prose (“orchestra of crickets”) details motivations of each character in chapter-length depth. And like Chaucer’s epic poems, NOAH’S WIFE is destined to become classic literature.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on January 29, 2016

Noah's Wife
by Lindsay Starck

  • Publication Date: January 26, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0399159231
  • ISBN-13: 9780399159237