Provoost, Anne. In The Shadow of the Ark. Berkley, 2006. ISBN 978-0425211021 352 pp. $
A retelling of the biblical story of the flood and Noah’s Ark, this vivid and dramatic novel with its historical setting and broad cast of interconnected characters is reminiscent of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent (St. Martins, 1997). Re Jana and her family–a carpenter father and stroke-disabled mother–travel to the desert, where they discover a ship surrounded by sand and a city to support its creation. Unsure if they believe the rumor that the world is to be destroyed by water, the father helps to construct their massive ship, while his daughter tries a range of trades, from dowser to masseuse to concubine. When Re Jana falls in love with the builder’s son, she is certain that she will have a space on the ark, but will her family, which now includes an orphaned boy?
The novel predictably explores issues of faith, belief and spirituality as well as identity, but the fresh and unique voice gives a whole new perspective to the familiar plot. Provoost’s rich details of the customs of the period give a thorough feeling to beautifully written epic. Readers will empathize with the endlessly questioning Re Jana as she struggles to comprehend the world around her, and their hearts will be in their throats as the plots winds towards the inevitable.