Newcomer Maine cleverly retells the story of Noah and the Flood from the perspective of the great man’s wife and children.
According to the old saw, a martyr is someone who lives with a saint, and in the case of Noe, as he is styled in these pages, the truism holds up. The great patriarch may have single-handedly saved the human race, but the simple truth is that he was a royal pain in the neck. Noe’s wife tells it best. She was just 13 when she married the old coot, who was then on the far side of 500, and she learned the hard way what it takes to satisfy a sexacentarian in bed. Withdrawn and largely silent, Noe seems to have more converse with God than he does with his family, and they are long since used to receiving outlandish pronouncements from him out of the blue. But even Noe’s wife has to bite her tongue when he tells her that he has been commanded to build an ark and prepare for a deluge that will destroy the world. The boys are somewhat less nonplussed: Cham has been trained as a shipbuilder and takes the order in stride; Sem and Japheth dutifully put their shoulders to the wheel and start building once the wood miraculously arrives. The daughters-in-law, sent off to gather in all the different species so as to march them two by two up the gangplank, are rather more put out, but that is the way of in-laws. Eventually, Noe’s folly is completed, and damned if the old boy wasn’t right. It starts to pour cats and dogs until the thing floats right away, and the rains don’t stop for 150 days. His family members owe their lives to the old man’s uprightness—but that doesn’t make him any easier to put up with, especially aboard ship.
Neither satire nor hagiography, but an idiomatic modern rendering of the biblical tale in accord both with contemporary sensibilities and historical accounts.