Email this review


From the contemporary angst of Ghost Images (1979), Minot now turns to a neat blend of allegory and Biblical revisionism. Ham, Noah's third and youngest son, is the narrator--and there are elements, he wants us to know, that the Official Version of the story has left out. The scorn, for instance, with which Noah's idea for the ark was met from within the family. The ""astonishing variety,"" once they got under way, ""of dung, droppings, pellets, crap, turds"" that befouled the lowest decks, where the animals were kept. The not-so-much-better conditions in the servants' quarters above. Ham also tells us how even Noah's own family lived boarded up, never seeing the sun (great-grandfather Methuselah, 969 years old, occupied a crib closest to the top deck, but he was a prisoner too); how, one day, the servants staged a rebellion; how Methuselah revealed to Ham that the family's lineage is out of Cain rather than Abel!; and how, when finally run aground, the ark-ites found that they weren't the only survivors of the deluge, but merely the most arrogant-looking. (There existed a vast, wretched, Third World-like populace who also made it through the wet.) Ham romps, romances, and eventually marries a servant, Sapphira; and there's a slapsticky scene involving the deep-sixing of dead Methuselah. But the ark/ship-of-state parallel seems Minot's primary intention: class consciousness, anarchy, feudal rights. And though it's only minor-league Hobbes in thematic heft, this unusual novel is trim, ship-shape, and odd--full of skill and sly purpose, making its single point with grace and sharpness.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum