Saturday, May 10, 2014

Storm, by Donna Jo Napoli

When the rain begins to fall, young Sebah just thinks that they have come early this year.  But as the rain turns to flood, she finds herself climbing higher and higher to find safe ground.  As that becomes harder and her situation grows more desperate, she is rescued and joined by a young man.  Eventually building a raft, they set out on the sea.  Still, the rains continue.  Tragedy strikes but as all seems lost, they suddenly come across a large mysterious ship, full of animals, messianic humans, and few new allies.

Napoli loves to explore legends and myths.  In this novel, she takes on the story of Noah.  Genesis doesn't actually provide much detail and since this story doesn't actually focus on any of the known participants, she has a great deal of license to imagine instead what stowing away on the Ark might have been like.  It's an interesting premise but surprisingly different than I imagined it would be.  Much of Napoli's interest is in imagining life for the animals and the book focuses on how hard spending a year in the Ark would have been for human and animal passengers alike.  It's a sort of brutal realism that doesn't quite work for a story like this (Genesis is not exactly the most realistic of books in the Bible!).  And some might argue that her literal interpretation sort of misses the point.

Towards the end, Napoli makes a belated exploration into the entire mindset of being Noah and what that experience might have been like.  It's an interesting digression and gets into territory that would have been much more interesting to explore.  Overall, the book seemed a bit of a lost opportunity.  Well-written, but simply not rising up to the glory of its source material.

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