In the Shadow of the Ark
Flemish author Anne Provoost’s In The Shadow of the Ark grips the reader with vivid scenes, well-developed characters, and beautiful language. She tells the story of Noah and his ark through the eyes of a young woman named Re Jana. Re Jana’s family have fled the marshes, where they lived for years among skilled shipbuilders and fishermen to find work in the desert among the Rrattika people who are “wanderers.” Re Jana’s father, a shipbuilder, finds work with Noah, a wanderer, who is constructing a massive ship, the ark. Re Jana offers her skills to find “good water” and ultimately wins the love of Ham, the Builder’s son. Unfortunately, Ham has selected another girl to be his wife, but he cannot give up Re Jana. When Re Jana learns from Ham the true purpose of the ark, she not only fears for her life and that of her family, but also questions this god that Ham and his family are obeying.
The apocalyptic scenes that ensue are gripping, and they present very powerful emotions as Re Jana and the reader are confronted with the philosophical questions of who lives and who dies in this biblical tale.
Readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent will surely want to pick up this book. In a bold departure, Scholastic has decided to sell the paperback rights of this book to an adult publisher, Berkley Books. The book is intended for mature young adult readers and, therefore, crosses well into the adult arena. Provoost does imply some sexually implicit scenes, one of which involves an intimate relationship between two women. None of these, however, are very direct or crude.
In the Shadow of the Ark is an excellent choice for book club discussions.