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)
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
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
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.
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.
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