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Virtual Book Tour: Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah's Wife by Rebecca Kanner: A Book Review

Sinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah's Wife
Author: Rebecca Kanner
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biblical Fiction
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Howard Books
Pages: 360
Source: This book was given to me as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audio CD
Synopsis:The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known  only as "wife" in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the
Old Testament's stories come alive like never before.

     Desperate to keep her safe, the woman's father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a haven for outcasts. Alone in her new life, Noah's wife gives him three sons. But living in this wicked and perverse town with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than to her takes its toll. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite its pious upbringing, develops some sinful tendencies of its own. While Noah carries out the Lord's commands, she tries to hide her mark and her shame as she weathers the scorn and taunts of the townspeople.

     But these trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming--and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world. As the floodwaters draw near, she grows in courage and honor, and when the water finally recedes, she emerges whole, displaying once and for all the indomitable strength of women. Drawing on the biblical narrative and Jewish mythology, Sinners and the Sea is a beautifully written account of the antediluvian world told in cinematic detail.

     My Review: Everyone knows the biblical story of Noah and his ark. What we don’t know much about is his unnamed wife, who is so overshadowed by her husband that we often tend to forget about her. However, in Sinners and the Sea, Noah’s wife is given a voice and tells the familiar tale from her perspective. Her story is told in a haunting and lyrical tone that makes for a dark and tragic tale. Noah’s wife proves that she is just as important as Noah in helping build a new world.

     The main protagonist is unnamed. She is born with a birthmark on her forehead, which people view as a symbol of great evil. People are afraid of her and shuns her and her father. One day, a trader carrying potions approaches her father and strikes a deal that will get rid of the birthmark for half of her father’s harvest. However, her father catches the trader trying to harm his daughter, and he kills him. The trader’s death results in a mob of townspeople that threatens to burn his daughter alive. In order to save his daughter, he marries her to Noah, a six-hundred year old prophet. Noah decides to take her for a wife because he believes that his father is righteous for murdering a false man that is involved with sorcery and deception. Noah takes her back to Sorum, a town filled with corruption, sin, and filth, and together they have three sons.

     The relationship between the unnamed protagonist and her father is beautiful. Her father does not shun her because she has a mark. Rather, she is the center of his world. He does everything he can to make sure that she is safe. He is even willing to make the sacrifice to send her into exile and to never see her again.

      Noah, her husband, is the second person that is not afraid of her mark. He takes care of her and treats her as a human being. He respects her as his wife. I really liked Noah. At first, he seemed proud. He dutifully follows the God of Adam, and obeys all of his commands, and most times he ignores his wife and sons so he can hear His voice. But over time, it becomes clear that he does love and care for his family. The relationship between his wife is a loving one filled with respect.

     I found that I did not like her sons. They were very flawed. They were cruel to each other. They each competed to prove which one was the better. I did like the main protagonist’s daughters-in-law. Had it not been for the fact, they would have died in the flood had they not been married to her sons, I would have thought they were too good for them. They were smart, strong, and wise, even Herai, who has autism.

     The main protagonist is a strong heroine. The birthmark is a test that she must prove that she is strong and worthy to be the matriarch to the new world. Noah’s wife is the rock that keeps the family together. Without her, Noah’s task would not have succeeded.

     I found that the setting is beautiful. The author describes the old world before the flood. The old world is a world full of cruelty and corruption. I really liked the second part of the book, where they are on the ark. It is a world filled with darkness, sadness, and tragedy. Noah has to make many tough decisions and to watch all of human civilization die in order to obey God’s word. The setting of the new world is described as happiness. It is a paradise because it is a world of redemption.

     Overall, the book is about betrayal, family, friendship, sacrifice, acceptance, and salvation. It is a book about finding one’s identity. It is that no matter what your imperfections are, you should be proud of the way you are. Your imperfection may even be your saving grace. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in biblical fiction and strong heroines. I also recommend this to fans of India Edghill, Jill Eileen Smith, Ginger Garrett, and Jannette Oke.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Watch the Book Trailer:

Praise for Sinners and the Sea:

"Kanner animates a harsh, almost dystopic world of fallen people struggling to survive. Noah's unnamed wife is a powerful, memorable character." - Publisher's Weekly

"[Noah's wife] proves her strength and character as she tries to protect her family... from the outside forces that threaten. Kanner successfully undertakes a formidable task retelling a familiar religious story through the eyes of Noah's wife. The narrative's well-articulated, evenly balanced and stimulating--but it's definitely not the familiar tale that's so frequently illustrated in children's books" - Kirkus Reviews

"SINNERS AND THE SEA is a rare find-a bold and vivid journey to the antediluvian world of Noah. Kanner's is a fresh, irresistible story about the unnamed woman behind the famous ark-builder. Compelling and masterfully written." - Tosca Lee, NY Times bestelling author of HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE.

"What a remarkable debut! Rebecca Kanner's SINNERS AND THE SEA is a haunting, beautifully written story of struggle and redemption told through the eyes of the Biblical prophet Noah's wife. Kanner pulls no punches: She gives us humanity in all its wickedness -- bloodthirsty, greedy, cruel -- and the horror and heartbreak the inhabitants of Noah's ark might have felt as, unable to help, they listened to the screams of the dying and witnessed the utter obliteration of life on Earth. By the end of this book, I was in tears, for Kanner does lead us out of the valley of the shadow of death into a new world of promise and hope. SINNERS AND THE SEA is a profoundly moving tale, thrilling and fast-paced, and one of the best books I have read in a very long time."- Sherry Jones, author, THE JEWEL OF MEDINA and FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS

"Rebecca Kanner brings the antediluvian world of giants, prophets, and demons alive, setting her narrative in motion from the first chapter and never letting it rest. She is a writer of great dexterity, performing tricks at a full sprint." - Marshall Klimasewiski, author of THE COTTAGERS and TYRANTS

"Kanner does a masterful job of penetrating the depths of the Biblical Flood narrative and weaving in the complicated reality of challenging relationships and longings for personal fulfillment. Her desire to go beyond the traditional understanding of the lives she explores introduces us to a courageous and insightful young writer whose first book will take its place alongside other exciting modern re-readings of the ancient Biblical text." - Rabbi Allen of Beth Jacob congregation in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Honored by Forward newspaper as one of America's "50 most significant Jewish leaders"

"We think we know Noah's story but he was not alone on the ark; what was the experience of his wife, his family? Rebecca Kanner's vividly imagined telling recreates the world of the bible, and asks powerful questions about the story and about ourselves." - Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple in Los
Angeles, named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine (2012). Author of WHY FAITH MATTERS

"We sympathize with this unnamed woman because--as remote as her world seems to be from ours--she longs for all that we want for ourselves: to be known, loved, and accepted by her family, her community, and ultimately her God... After reading Sinners and the Sea, you'll never look at the Biblical story of Noah and the flood in the same way again, and isn't that Biblical fiction's greatest purpose? To see the old stories with fresh eyes and perhaps find new meaning..." - Stephanie Landsem, author of THE WELL

"Rebecca Kanner has created an autobiography of Noah's wife, and an imaginative one it is." -American Jewish World

"[Kanner] gives an intelligent voice to Noah's wife." - Jewish Book Council

"First-time novelist Kanner has written an utterly absorbing novel, one that flows seamlessly." - Historical Novel Society

"A fascinating look into a feral civilization of turmoil and hardship." - Historical Novel Review

"A stirring, fascinating story written beautifully." - Historical Fiction Connection

"Kanner beautifully evokes life on the claustrophobic, smelly vessel. Riveting... It will certainly spark hours of book club discussions." - St. Paul Pioneer Press

Buy the Book

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About the Author:

     Sinners and the Sea is Rebecca Kanner's debut novel. Rebecca is a Twin Cities native and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award, a Loft mentorship Award and a 2012/2013 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. Her personal essay, "Safety," is listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review.

     Along with other authors including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks and Ron Hansen, Rebecca will be featured in the upcoming title Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists.

You can learn more about Rebecca, and find links to selected stories and
essays, at her 


  1. It sounds like an interesting book; after all, as you say, Lauralee, one hears about Noah, but very little about his wife. Of course, we realize that any story about Noah's wife has to be based completely on surmise and fantasy, but I don't think it matters. I feel that it is important to give history's unnamed, under-rated women a voice if women are ever going to achieve any kind of equal standing with men.


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