Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife

Written by Rebecca Kanner
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

In the vein of The Red Tent, which memorialized the little-known life of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, Sinners and the Sea purports to give voice (and name) to a little-known woman from the Bible: the wife of Noah.

Before she is Noah’s wife, she is a peasant girl who lives with her father in the desert. In this male-dominated society, her father never anoints her with a name, because he doesn’t want her name to be associated with scorn and lies. To protect herself from being killed, she takes pains to hide an unfortunate birthmark on her forehead under a scarf, which is considered to be the mark of a demon.

Knowing that she is better married than single, simply because she is easily an object of scorn and a target for rape, her father marries her to Noah, who is hundreds of years old at the time. She travels with Noah to lands far away from her father, where she gives birth to three sons. Noah is good to her but spends most of his time fruitlessly trying to reform the sinners in his village until, eventually, he begins to build the ark at God’s command.

In defiance of the society that attempted to banish her, both because of the mark on her forehead and her status as merely a woman, Noah’s wife emerges as a strong and independent force, capable of advising her husband, helping build the ark, and befriending the evildoers in the village.

First-time novelist Kanner has written an utterly absorbing novel, one that flows seamlessly. Noah’s ultimate naming of his wife is a touching conclusion to this richly imagined and original story of one woman’s courage and strength in the face of hardship and multiple obstacles.