Arthur Levine's introduction to Anne Provoost's ''In the Shadow of the Ark"'

Dear Reader,

The enduring image I carry from the Biblical tale of Noah is a parade of animals – a benign procession that is easy to illustrate and simple to convey to young children.

But as we grow to adulthood the story gets more complex, doesn’t it? This is, after all, the tale of how all life on earth was destroyed. How, because of “pervasive wickedness” and a world “filled with violence,” God sought to start over. The Bible tells how God identified one family, gave detailed instructions for an ark, and then opened up “the windows of heaven” to a flood that took all life. We know this part as well as the more child-friendly bit about the paired animals, but we think about it less.

And here is the part we mostly don’t think about: What must this incredible sequence of events have looked like to a person living at that time? A young woman, for instance, forced from her family’s home in the marshes by rising waters. Think of this family arriving in the middle of the desert to a din of construction, the stink of pitch, and the shell of a giant ship. Think of the rumors of the mighty boat’s purpose. Think of the disbelief.

Then think of the young woman, Re Jana, falling in love with Ham, one of the Builder’s sons, their passion against this backdrop of disaster. And wait for the moment when the rains come in earnest, and panic begins to spread. For only the chosen few will board the ark and be rescued.

This is a beautiful literary novel. But it’s also an incredible romance, and a suspense story to boot. I guess it’s a little like watching a Biblical TITANIC – where you as the audience know how the story ends, but this only increases your concern for the characters you’ve grown to love and makes you hope against hope that they will come through alive.

This book surely follows in the tradition of THE RED TENT and other fine novels with Biblical settings. But I think it has a particular power and resonance for the violent times we live in.

Please read it and tell me what you think.

Yours truly,

Arthur Levine