By Leslie Lindsay
Exquisitely rendered, astonishing read about the mother of all great disasters–the Great Flood–NAAMAH is as gorgeous as it is frightening. Teeming with allegory, metaphor, and more.
Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by THE RUMPUS,
READ IT FORWARD,
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER,
….And Blake is named one of BOOKPAGE’S
FIFTEEN WOMEN TO WATCH IN 2019
This book. This book. THIS BOOK!! I am in awe. I can’t stop thinking about it. NAAMAH (Riverhead, April 9th) is a stunning foray into one of the oldest and most well-known Bible stories–that of Noah and the Ark, but this telling is from the POV of Noah’s wife, Naamah. In the Bible, she is unnamed, but in Sarah Blake’s hands, she is truly actualized. She’s a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law, a lover, a caretaker, and she has worries– struggles on what it means to be a woman, faith, her purpose, and so much more.
Sarah Blake’s background as a poet is evident. Her prose is lush but stark, weaving in plenty of lyricism, but make no mistake, NAMMAH is fiercely told with a strong narrative. In many ways, reading this story is like being dropped into a Salvador Dali painting, everything is a little surreal, a little dreamy (and there are plenty of actual dream sequences)…there’s a lucidity here that will absolutely captivate and enthrall. NAMMAH is literary fiction at its best– poetic, wildly imaginative, and Blake creates new ways of suspense and momentum, making this an utterly unputdownable read.
[Fair warning: if you’re looking for a clean, wholesome Christian look at this story, you might want to stick to another telling. There are some erotic scenes and some troubling imagery].
“Comprised of mesmerizing prose poem-esque sections, the novel explores themes of sexuality, purpose, loss, love, and faith. A poetic debut of biblical proportions.”
—KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review
Although this is an ancient story, I found the language bright, relevant and modern, a tough feat for someone working with such an old story, which could get bogged down in dreary language.
Is it bold? Absolutely? Is it gorgeous and stunning? You bet. Do you need to read this book right now? Yes.
Please join me in welcoming the lovely Sarah Blake to the author interview series.
Sarah! Welcome. Oh! I cannot stop thinking about this book. I didn’t want it to end. And when it did, I had to flip through it again and then I had to read all the reviews and then…well, what was haunting you when you decided to write NAAMAH? Because this book is haunting.
The world! Shootings! Climate change! It feels like everything, which feels too vast to be a haunting. But I think that’s part of why I had to write this book and see how Naamah would make it through her time on the ark.
In terms of genre…this one is so much. It could be speculative fiction. It could be prose poetry. It could be historical fiction. What’s your take? And does genre matter?
I had no idea that I was writing a book at first—just prose. But I love speculative fiction and historical fiction and literary fiction, and I’m thrilled that the book falls into all these different genres. I think genre is a great way to quickly find books that appeal to you.
Also, along the lines of genre, what kind of research did you have to do? Did you look at religious text? And historical text as well, I am guessing? Although the language is fresh and relevant, you still have to know what people back then might have eaten (figs, hummus, flatbread), how they cut things (sharp bones), if they had ladders or swings? How much of this was your imagination and how much was informed by research?
I read Genesis and Leptogenesis and everything I could find online about the story of the flood. I tried to research life, food, clothes, instruments, etc., of 10,000 years ago, but I didn’t feel very confident in what I could find. I had to extrapolate quite a bit. On the other hand, I was able to find out a great deal about animals, which was a really enjoyable part of my research.
Can you give us a sense of the timeline for your writing? Do you follow the pen or plan carefully? Did you ever want to give this project up? And what kept you going?
I follow the pen, but the story of the ark was always there for me as structure. The flood, the mountaintops appearing, the birds being sent out. But “Noah’s wife” isn’t mentioned in later chapters of Genesis where Noah and his sons are, so I knew I had a little flexibility in where Naamah would end up. That captured me. Where else would Naamah be but with her family? I never wanted to give up on the project because I needed to know what happened to her.
There’s so much metaphor in NAAMAH. Layers upon layers. There’s water and what that means—ancient, cleansing, amniotic, rebirth—but there’s also one’s struggle with faith, what it means to be a woman, and so much more. What do you hope others take away?
Oh! What a hard question, especially to answer without spoilers. I guess I want others to take away a sense that you should trust yourself and your power.
I’m intrigued, too with the cover. At first glance, I didn’t like it. The tiger seemed, well…menacing. At closer inspection, there are water droplets creating a sort of illusion of…well, life. Do those drops look a little like a fetus? Can you talk about that, please?
I was so surprised when I first saw the cover! I thought for sure it would be an ark or wood or pitch. But I like the tiger and how it drew my attention to tigers throughout the book. I always saw the drops as bubbles, and so, representative of the underwater world. I love that that side of the book made its way onto the cover.
Sarah, this has been fabulous. Thank you. I could ask questions all day. Is there anything I should have asked about, but didn’t? Maybe what you’re working on next? How you balance being a mom and a writer? [Also, that bit about Naamah going into the future with the angel and seeing children with plastic model of the ark. Oh! I so related because we had the Fisher-Price ark.] What you’re reading this summer? Or anything else.
Next up I’m working on a novel set in the future about a woman who keeps crossing paths with a serial killer. And my work as a writer is totally fueled by my life as a mother, and made possible by public schools. And I just read The Bobcat by Katherine Forbes Riley, which comes out this summer!
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of NAAMAH, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SARAH BLAKE is the author of NAAMAH, a debut novel reimagining the story of Noah’s ark, and poetry collections MR. WEST and LET’S NOT LIVE ON EARTH. She received a Literature Fellowship from the NEA. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the American Poetry Review, and the Kenyon Review. She lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
- Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1
LOVE IT? SHARE IT!
#motherhood #prosepoetry #Noahsark #NAAMAH #speculativefiction #womeninliterature #myths #religion
[Cover and author image courtesy of Riverhead and used with permission. Noah’s Ark from , and woman swimming images both retrieved on 4.25.19. Artistic photo of cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Please join me on Instagram]
I love this review/interview!!! This book sounds amazing and I love the questions/answers! “I had no idea that I was writing a book at first—just prose.” So helpful to me. Thanks to both of you! Lovely book/flower photo as well 🌷
Right? Sometimes, we don’t know where our words will take us. Thanks for reading!