June 1, 2004
Gr. 10-up. In the tradition of the adult novel The Red Tent comes this story of the biblical Flood, recounted by Re Jana, whose family leaves the marshes to find the ark. The passion Re Jana finds with Ham, son of the Builder, leads to a place on the ark, but this safe haven, with the stink and sounds of the animals, starvation, and repeated (if not lustful) rapes by Ham's brothers, tests her in every way, even as she carries new life into the New World. Exquisitely detailed and intelligently written, this is a YA novel only in the broadest sense; no one would blink if it appeared on an adult list. Teens will find themselves alternately caught up in the story's tension, especially once the rain starts falling, and bored by some of the religious and philosophical underpinnings. There are subtly portrayed sexual incidents, too (including a relationship between Re Jana and Ham's wife) but these are small stitches in a vast piece that strikingly reveals the human condition at the hour of its destruction. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2004 Booklist
July 1st, 2004
This beautiful, solemn, heavy retelling of the story of Noah's ark is narrated in first person by Re Jana, a dark-skinned young woman of a different race from Noah's light-skinned family. Re Jana's family journeys from marshlands to seek a rumored ship that's being built--inexplicably--in a desert. Nobody understands the project; only the Builder and his family know the purpose. Re Jana ponders (is it a landmark for posterity? a religious sacrifice?) while readers bear the brunt of knowledge about the upcoming flood. Re Jana becomes inextricably bound up in the Builder's family by falling in love with his son, Ham, who returns her love, and by performing her special oil-and-water massages on family members. Suspense slowly builds as the lands dampen. Consider this poetic, substantial piece a YA/adult crossover. The ending is both sad and relieving as it touches both the bible and the modern political world.