New York Times Book Review.
September 19, 2004

by Nora Krug

The enduring image of Noah's ark, particularly in children's books, is of Noah ushering cute little animals two by two up a plank to safety. Readers of Anne Provoost's sophisticated retelling will be left with a far darker, more complex picture. As in Anita Diamant's version of Dinah's story in the best seller The Red Tent, the omniscient narrator (a k a God) has been replaced by the voice of a bit player, here an adolescent girl named Re Jana. She, her father and infirm mother (who lies on a stretcher and communicates by blinking her left eye) giving an untold side of the familiar biblical tale. They are among those God intends to destroy. The novel follows their efforts to understand and thwart this fate, a gripping, epic drama -- part love story and part novel of ideas -- that vividly raises thorny questions at the heart of this Old Testament story.

The sweeping narrative is true to the grandeur of the biblical setting yet intimate. Creating sympathy for those the Bible deems sinners is just one way Provoost subverts the original text with her powerful story, ably translated from the Dutch by John Nieuwenhuizen. Like The Red Tent, however, In the Shadow of the Ark is a bit of a bodice-ripper, with both loving and violent sexual experiences. The paperback edition is being published as an adult book.