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The Preservationist

The Preservationist

4.0 9
by David Maine, Barbara Rosenblat (Read by), Maggie-Meg Reed (Read by), David Pittu (Read by), Jenna Lamia (Read by)

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"Noe says, -I must build a boat.
-A boat, she says.
-A ship, more like. I'll need the boys to help, he adds as an afterthought.
-We're leagues from the sea, she says, or any river big enough to warrant a boat.
This conversation is making Noe impatient. -I've no need to explain myself to you.
-And when you're done, she says carefully, we'll be taking


"Noe says, -I must build a boat.
-A boat, she says.
-A ship, more like. I'll need the boys to help, he adds as an afterthought.
-We're leagues from the sea, she says, or any river big enough to warrant a boat.
This conversation is making Noe impatient. -I've no need to explain myself to you.
-And when you're done, she says carefully, we'll be taking this ship to the sea somehow?
As usual, Noe's impatience fades quickly. -We'll not be going to the sea. The sea will be coming to us."

In this brilliant debut novel, Noah's family (or Noe as he's called here)-his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law-tell what it's like to live with a man touched by God, while struggling against events that cannot be controlled or explained. When Noe orders his sons to build an ark, he can't tell them where the wood will come from. When he sends his daughters-in-law out to gather animals, he can offer no directions, money, or protection. And once the rain starts, they all realize that the true test of their faith is just beginning. Because the family is trapped on the ark with thousands of animals-with no experience feeding or caring for them, and no idea of when the waters will recede. What emerges is a family caught in the midst of an extraordinary Biblical event, with all the tension, humanity-even humor-that implies.

About the Author:
David Maine was born in 1963 and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona, and has worked in the mental health systems of Massachusetts and Arizona. He has taught English in Morocco and Pakistan, and since 1998 has lived in Lahore, Pakistan with his wife, novelist UzmaAslam Khan.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
The miraculous story of Noah's ark brings to mind a number of things: rain, animals, good and evil, God's wrath and His provision. But it's also a story of a family, an angle that novelist David Maine tackles in his original and absorbing take on the biblical tale.

Faithful Noe, as he is referred to in Maine's work, receives visions from God. Most recently, God has instructed him to build a huge ship and fill it with breeding families of every beast in creation. "We're leagues from the sea," his wife protests. "Why so big?" his son Sem asks. "It's not a proper ship at all," complains another son, Cham. Frustrated, Noe continues to give orders, instructing two of his daughters-in-law to travel to the lands of their youth to gather pairs of exotic animals. "The problem with people who think that God will provide," grumbles one of them, "is that they think God will provide."

Nimbly imbuing the Old Testament tale with his own sensibilities, Maine describes the family's undertaking: their quarrels over how to organize the animals, their worries over the boat, their encounters with the most ferocious beasts, and God's final command that they separate and repopulate the world. In The Preservationist, Maine's clever, thoughtful writing offers an imaginative new perspective on one of the Bible's best-loved stories. (Fall 2004 Selection)

Janet Maslin
The Preservationist is poised somewhere in the gap between holy visions and practical details (like the hygienic upkeep of a floating "barnyard in a box"). It is an elegant, inventive book and in no way a cynical one, despite the author's keen appreciation of the incongruous. After having to answer questions about just how much timber he needs for this undertaking, Noe closes his eyes and thinks, "Things were much clearer when God was explaining." The book resounds with the gravity of Noe's mission even as it invents the quotidian details of his story.
The New York Times
Melvin Jules Bukiet
Through the family's ordeal, Maine's eight characters in search of an acre begin to come to self-consciousness, concluding with the post-landing episode in which Noe's sons witness their father's drunken nakedness. As Adam and Eve once fell through guilt in the Garden, Noe's sons fall in the new Eden through shame. They have become the kind of people who ponder their salvation and their neighbors' drowning and ask, "Why me, and not them? Why them, and not me?" These are questions that couldn't be answered then and can't be now, and that's why they remain eternally valid.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Visitations from God are a mixed blessing for Noah and his family in Maine's spirited, imaginative debut. Noah (aka "Noe") may have pissed himself upon hearing God's instructions to build an arc, but he sets to the task without delay. He crosses the desert to buy lumber from giants; his eldest, Sem, fetches Cham, the son with shipbuilding skills; Sem's wife, Bera, and Cham's wife, Ilya, gather the animals; and Japheth, Noe's youngest, helps, too, in between goofing off and "rutting" with wife Mirn. And, of course, there's "the wife," 600-year-old Noe's once-teenage bride, who takes everything "Himself" (that's Noe, not God) dishes out with time-tested practicality. Wildly different in temperament, age and provenance, these characters, each telling part of the story, help create a brilliant kaleidoscopic analysis of the situation: the neighbors who ridicule Noe and clan; the inner doubts and shifting alliances; the varying feelings toward God, whose presence is always felt and sometimes resented. The flood comes as a relief from the wondering ("who is crazier: the crazy man or the people who put their faith in him?"), but hardship soon follows. Though the ending is already written, Maine enlivens every step toward it with small surprises. A story of faith and survival (think Life of Pi thousands of years earlier with a much larger cast of characters), this debut is a winner. Agent, Scott Hoffman. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Maine draws on the story of Noah and the flood for a powerful and engaging first novel. Closely following the biblical text (which runs only two pages in most editions), he brings great depth, realism, and psychological subtlety to Noah (or "Noe" as he is called here), his family, and their heroic struggle to survive the flood. Their world is a mysterious and forbidding one, full of ancient cities, exotic beasts, and sin and evil. In one city, for example, the men and women "rut" together in the street, and the dead are left piled up, unburied. Maine is most interested in exploring how Noah's family responds to their cataclysmic ordeal, and he describes the daily rigors and shifting emotions among family members effectively. He also explores issues of faith, doubt, and the nature of God with resourcefulness and courage. Highly recommended.-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., Manchester, CT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 idiomaticmodern rendering of the biblical tale in accord both with contemporary sensibilities and historical accounts. Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection. Agent: Scott Hoffman/PMA Literary and Film Management

Product Details

HighBridge Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 4 Cassettes, 6.5 Hours
Product dimensions:
4.48(w) x 1.26(h) x 7.26(d)

Read an Excerpt


1. Noe

But Noe found grace before the Lord.
Genesis 6:8
Noe glances toward the heavens, something he does a lot these days. Scanning for clouds. None visible amid the stars, so he finishes urinating, shakes himself dry and makes his way back to the house. Inside, the wife pokes desultorily at a pot of stew hanging over a fire. It is late for supper: the others have eaten already and retired to the sleeping room. Noe squats against one of the rough limewashed walls and points at a terracotta bowl. He's roughly six hundred years old: words are unnecessary.

The stew is thick with lentils and goat. Noe slurps contentedly. A little salt would improve it, but salt is in short supply of late. Noe finishes the stew, sets the bowl aside, clears his throat. The wife recognizes this as a signal of forthcoming speech and offers her attention. Noe says, I must build a boat.

--A boat, she says.

--A ship, more like. I'll need the boys to help, he adds as an afterthought.

The wife squats on the far side of the fire, paddle-like feet set wide apart, forearms poised on knees. She fiddles with the wooden ladle and says, You know nothing much of boats. Or ships either.

--I know what I need, he says.

--We're leagues from the sea, she says, or any river big enough to warrant a boat.

This conversation is making Noe impatient. --I've no need to explain myself to you. She nods. The olive-oil lamp throws a soft yellow glow across them both. The wife is sturdily built, short and broad, and much younger than Noe: perhaps sixty. She was barely adolescent when wed to the old man, already white-bearded to his navel, with crow's-feet sunk into his temples like irrigation ditches. Still a vital old corker, though, and randy enough to rut her into three sons. Nowadays a stranger would have trouble guessing which of them was the senior.

--And when you're done, she says carefully, we'll be taking this ship to the sea somehow?

As usual, Noe's impatience fades quickly. --We'll not be going to the sea. The sea will be coming to us.

She's banked the fire and taken the pot off already, but stirs it now out of habit. Her fingers are long and tapering. --It's one of your visions?

--Yes, Noe says quietly.

There is a pause.

--So that's it then, she says.

The wife looks up with a sad smile. For a moment she appears thirteen again, fourteen, and Noe glimpses the oval-faced girl half-hidden behind her brothers, eyes down, brought out to the front yard for his approval before he took her away on his mule. Something stirs in him then, simple and tender, and briefly he is regretful for all the anxiety he knows she will face. But it can't be helped. He has been called. More than that: he has been chosen, and there is something he must do.

The wife says, I guess you'd better get started.

--I guess I'd better, Noe agrees. But there is a small sad glitter in his wife's eyes, and he looks away while he speaks.

This is what happened when Noe received the vision.

He was in the mustard field, yellow flowers in all directions so bright they seared his corneas. Zephyrs ruffled them like silks on a line, like the surface of a pond. Dazzled by the shimmer, Noe strode through the patch, walking staff clutched in his gnarled right hand. His mind was busy with thoughts of trade, of what he could get from Dinar the peddler in exchange for a few hundredweight of mustard greens, of olives from his grove, of goat's milk and hen's eggs and sheep's wool. Some wine, perhaps, to fend off the midwinter dankness; or a few bolts of eastern cloth; or some salt, yes, definitely some salt. Doubtless the wife would have suggestions too, a copper pot, a better loom. Always there was something. Thank Yahweh he had no daughters to marry off and no dowries to accumulate.

He heard the bleat of a lamb nearby. The sheep were supposed to be far to the east, on the hillsides with Japheth. Had one strayed?


The voice did not come from outside his head so much as inside. He staggered, but kept walking.


His hands were pressing against his forehead without his knowing it. --Who -- ?

--Noe. He felt a physical pressure behind his temples, a gentle swelling against the inside of his skull. Though disconcerting, it felt in no way alarming. --I am here.

--Yes Lord, he managed to stammer.

--Noe, you are a good man. There are few such.

Noe said nothing.

--I am pleased with you and your sons. There are many I am not pleased with. Do you understand what I am saying?

--Not exactly, my Lord.

--The unbelievers shall be destroyed.

Little more than a whisper: --Destroyed?

--They shall be drowned in a flood of righteousness and brought before Me for judgement.

Noe felt his bladder loosen, and hot urine streamed down his thigh. --As you wish, Lord. I pray that you will look with mercy upon my sons and myself, though we deserve it not.

--Fear not, Noe. I have plans for you.

Noe had long since stopped walking. Around him the hallucinatory vision of burning golden flowers filled his eyes with tears.

--You are going to build a boat, Noe. Not just any boat. Something enormous, hundreds of cubits, big enough for you and your family and their families. Do you understand?

--Yes, Lord.

--When it is complete, you will collect every animal you can account for, male and female, as many as possible. Put them on this boat, and provision it well, because you know not how long you will be afloat. There will be a deluge.

--I'll do as you instruct.

--When the rain stops, you and your families and the animals you save shall go forth and fill the land again. All else shall perish.

Noe nodded. It was either that or fall over. If he hadn't pissed himself already, he would do so now. --Lord, about this vessel.

--Make it big, advised Yahweh.

--A hundred cubits?

--Three hundred. Fifty wide, and thirty tall. With three decks, and tar inside and out, and a pair of doors set into the side tall enough for three men.

Despair chewed through him like a maggot. --My Lord, that is immense indeed. It will take time. And wood, he thought to himself, but didn't say aloud.

Not that it mattered. --Time I will give. And timber others will bring you, if you but have faith enough. And then Yahweh, the Lord God of Noe's ancestor Adam and Adam's son Seth, evaporated from Noe's mind.


No answer. Noe's thoughts alone were present in Noe's head. He blinked. Tears tracked down his face and dry urine tugged stickily among the hairs on his calf. The sun toiled down relentlessly, reflected back by a thousand thousand tiny mustard blossoms. In their midst stood a dirty gray-white smudge: one of Noe's lambs, far astray and bleating furiously.

Noe took this as a sign. He took many things as signs. He rushed the lamb, who stood riveted as if too startled to jump away. The old man scooped the animal and murmured, You're coming with me. You'll be the first.

--Baa, answered the lamb.

With purpose now, Noe made for the farm buildings, square whitewashed things like cubes of dirty chalk in the distance. His bony, bowed legs pumped vigorously, belying his great age. Noe knew that great age was not an obstacle to great deeds. Fatigue could be overcome; stiffness could be chased away. Forgetfulness could be managed or even turned to one's own advantage. Yahweh's words rattled in his ears as he hurried on.

If you but have faith enough.

Meet the Author

Reader TYLER BUNCH can be seen and heard on Henson/Disney's Bear in the Big Blue House and PBS's Between the Lions. His acting credits include Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

WENDY HOOPES works in film, television, and theater. Among her credits: voices for the MTV animated series Daria.

DAVID MAINE was born in 1963 and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut. He attended Oberlin College and the University of Arizona, and has worked in the mental health systems of Massachusetts and Arizona. He has taught English in Morocco and Pakistan, and since 1998 has lived in Lahore, Pakistan with his wife, novelist Uzma Aslam Khan.

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4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although this book could have been great, the author seemed to enjoy adding sexual details and poorly disguised cursing. It reminded me of a good stand up comic who throws in bathroom humor out of habit or to satisfy the management. This book will go in the trash, not the share with a friend pile.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
When I found this book in a used book store, it was a "must read. The dust jacket is unique in that a boat appears to be floating on the top edge of the jacket. This particular boat is revealed to be Noah’s ark, as he is the preservationist to whom the title refers.  Seeing Noah as a preservationist is so obvious that I had not considered that of him as I had seen him as “only” a righteous man who obediently followed the commands given him by his God.  Mr. Maine does not discount Noah’s faithfulness; rather his treatment of this story only deepens the truths revealed in this familiar Old Testament story. Told in three parts and from the points-of-view of the members of Noah’s family, this common story unfolds as new.    Mr. Maine uses an obscure edition of the Bible for spelling, seeing the names so acquainted with this story spelled in unfamiliar way helps to make the story “new.” Beginning shortly after Noah receives the command to build an ark, the book is revealed in a steady, even pace, allowing the reader to experience more closely how this event had to have “occurred.”   How Noah’s wife, sons and his daughters-in-law responded to this strange event is very human.  Each is heard responding to their respective roles and are seen evolving as their world, literally, is remade.  Noah’s wife, who is 540 years his junior, is seen as steady, faithful and hardworking but is never given a name in this story.    Sem, the eldest son, is rock steady, mirrors his father’s following of Yahweh but seems to have little concept of a Self outside of his familial home. Cham, the second son, is the boat-builder and “prodigal,” who returns home because he is compelled to do so. Japheth, the youngest, whose response to the situation reflects his birth order and his age (about 15 when the rain starts).  The daughters-in-law are put in charge of gathering the animals while the men build the ark.  The faithful acts of these women are rewarded with profound success; this is remarkable in that their faith was in obedience to Noah’s direction, not necessarily to Noah’s God. The book addressed questions raised should one ever deeply ponder this story.  The answers will satisfy some, enrage others but each incident is feasible.  The ten months spent on a boat with the world’s largest (and first) animal menagerie and in constant, CLOSE, contact with everyone else on the vessel is seen to be as horrendous as imagined.  Conversations about Yahweh’s destruction of a world he created are treated realistically – can Yahweh be trusted to care for Creation – Yahweh will always decide what is best – Yahweh will provide what is needed to complete what Yahweh commands – are all points of conversation somewhere in the years around the Flood.  The concern parents have around how to raise children who will leave to become productive members of society while hoping the relationship will be strong enough for those children to return to visit their aged parents, not letting them die alone and forsaken is addressed in as personal way as possible.  The question of "What will ‘the next generation’ do with the world when it is their turn to create it in line with their dreams?" is reduced to its barest answer within the pages of the book. Mr. Maine writes the book “as if” it is a historical event.  This is not a theological treatise, a book of history, nor is it a sociological reflection yet each of those issues enfolded within this work.  .
BigBrad77 More than 1 year ago
Okay, I'm not generally a fan of the "let's retell an old story" style of writing, but this was really really good. Funny, for one thing, but also moving in places (after all, the whole dies, almost). There's a little sex and grit which were a surprise at first until you think, well, it's about the end of the world, right? And its repopulation. So a little sex and grit makes some sense. My only criticism is that I wish it were longer, but tha's not really a criticism, so, 5 stars!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In The Preservationist, David Maine takes one of the Old Testament's most fanciful, seemingly allegorical episodes and brings it kicking and bleating to life. Maine revisits the story of Noah's ark and dares to fill in the gaps, rendering the logistics of Noah's (or Noe's) feat surprisingly credible while grounding the narrative in fresh, earthy detail. What ultimately makes this novel more than a precarious literary stunt, though, are Maine's deft characterizations--the women, in particular, inject the tale with sly resourcefulness and dry wit. The Preservationist is darkly funny and often irreverent, but its timely themes (which address faith, family and the very meaning of life) pack a deceptively powerful punch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was a little hesitant to read this book, even though it was recommended by a friend who¿s a Christian, and has great taste in books. I wondered what more anyone could possibly say about one of my all-time favorite stories: Noah¿s Ark. Turns out I didn¿t have to worry at all. David Maine takes all of the characters in this familiar story and makes them REAL. From Noah (who Maine calls Noe) to his three sons Sem, Cham and Japheth (whom you might know as Shem, Ham, and Japheth from a different printing of the Bible than Maine used), the author gives each of the men in the story a distinct personality. But where this book really shines is in David Maine¿s portrayal of the women of the story. If it¿s true that behind every great man there stands a great woman, then Noe¿s wife, and his three daughters-in-law Bera, Ilya, and Mirn (whose names Maine invents) are four of the greatest women in history. I could gush on and on about this book¿about how the author amplifies and illuminates the story in the Bible at every turn, but I won¿t. I¿ll just say you have to read it and discover the joy for yourself. If you liked The Red Tent, you¿ll love The Preservationist¿and the great thing about The Preservationist is that your husband or boyfriend will love it too.