Noah’s wife is unnamed in Genesis and only mentioned in passing. Sinners and the Sea is the story of the flood from her perspective.
What inspired you to write this story?
As a girl I attended a religious school where I first encountered the women of Genesis. My teachers brought these women to life. We discussed them in our classes, and the matriarchs—Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel—were added to a prayer we said each morning. But one woman, Noah’s wife, wasn’t mentioned. How could she be, without a name?
A few years after getting a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing, I was overcome with the desire to give voice to this nameless woman. I set out to write a short story. But just a few pages into it, I knew I didn’t want to stop. A 500 year old man that everyone thinks is crazy, a host of vulgar sinners, a world on the verge of destruction…. For me, this material was irresistible.
How did you get a publishing deal?
I got some great advice about finding an agent: Read the acknowledgements page of books similar to yours to see who the agent was. Once I finished my novel I looked in the back of The Red Tent and queried the agent. From there everything happened quickly. Within two months of agreeing to represent me, Carolyn Jenks got me a good deal with Simon & Schuster/Howard Books.
Praise for Sinners and the Sea
“Debut novelist Kanner brings to life the nameless wife of Noah in a deeply imagined midrashic interpretation of the biblical story of the flood. Kanner animates a harsh, almost dystopic world of fallen people struggling to survive. Noah’s unnamed wife is a powerful, memorable character.” (Publisher’s Weekly)
“[Noah’s wife] proves her strength and character as she tries to protect her family… from the outside forces that threaten. Kanner successfully undertakes a formidable task retelling a familiar religious story through the eyes of Noah’s wife. The narrative’s well-articulated, evenly balanced and stimulating…” (Kirkus Reviews)
“SINNERS AND THE SEA [is] a Great Flood yarn told from the perspective of Noah’s wife. What stays with me still is Kanner’s account of the mid-voyage attack of the titans—a scene that lives in my imagination far more vividly than the lumbering digital boulder beasts of Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 film Noah, a Bible-as-Russell-Crowe-vehicle that appeared not long after Kanner’s novel. Score one for the written word.” (The Baffler)
“SINNERS AND THE SEA is a rare find–a bold and vivid journey to the antediluvian world of Noah. Kanner’s is a fresh, irresistible story about the unnamed woman behind the famous ark-builder. Compelling and masterfully written.” –Tosca Lee, NY Times bestelling author of HAVAH: THE STORY OF EVE.
“What a remarkable debut! Rebecca Kanner’s SINNERS AND THE SEA is a haunting, beautifully written story of struggle and redemption told through the eyes of the Biblical prophet Noah’s wife. Kanner pulls no punches: She gives us humanity in all its wickedness — bloodthirsty, greedy, cruel — and the horror and heartbreak the inhabitants of Noah’s ark might have felt as, unable to help, they listened to the screams of the dying and witnessed the utter obliteration of life on Earth. By the end of this book, I was in tears, for Kanner does lead us out of the valley of the shadow of death into a new world of promise and hope. SINNERS AND THE SEA is a profoundly moving tale, thrilling and fast-paced, and one of the best books I have read in a very long time.”- Sherry Jones, author, THE JEWEL OF MEDINA and FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS
“Rebecca Kanner brings the antediluvian world of giants, prophets, and demons alive, setting her narrative in motion from the first chapter and never letting it rest. She is a writer of great dexterity, performing tricks at a full sprint.” -Marshall Klimasewiski, author of THE COTTAGERS and TYRANTS
“Kanner does a masterful job of penetrating the depths of the Biblical Flood narrative and weaving in the complicated reality of challenging relationships and longings for personal fulfillment. Her desire to go beyond the traditional understanding of the lives she explores introduces us to a courageous and insightful young writer whose first book will take its place alongside other exciting modern re-readings of the ancient Biblical text.” -Rabbi Allen of Beth Jacob congregation in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Honored by Forward newspaper as one of America’s “50 most significant Jewish leaders”
“We think we know Noah’s story but he was not alone on the ark; what was the experience of his wife, his family? Rebecca Kanner’s vividly imagined telling recreates the world of the bible, and asks powerful questions about the story and about ourselves.” -Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine (2012). Author of WHY FAITH MATTERS
“We sympathize with this unnamed woman because—as remote as her world seems to be from ours—she longs for all that we want for ourselves: to be known, loved, and accepted by her family, her community, and ultimately her God… After reading Sinners and the Sea, you’ll never look at the Biblical story of Noah and the flood in the same way again, and isn’t that Biblical fiction’s greatest purpose? To see the old stories with fresh eyes and perhaps find new meaning…” Stephanie Landsem, author of THE WELL
“Rebecca Kanner has created an autobiography of Noah’s wife, and an imaginative one it is.” (American Jewish World)
“[Kanner] gives an intelligent voice to Noah’s wife.” (Jewish Book Council)
“First-time novelist Kanner has written an utterly absorbing novel, one that flows seamlessly.” (Historical Novel Society)
“A fascinating look into a feral civilization of turmoil and hardship.” (Historical Novel Review)
“A stirring, fascinating story written beautifully.” (Historical Fiction Connection)
“Kanner beautifully evokes life on the claustrophobic, smelly vessel. Riveting… It will certainly spark hours of book club discussions.” (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
Sinners and the Sea READING GROUP GUIDE
The Jewish Daily Forward: Giving a Voice — and a Name — to Noah’s Wife.
CarolineLeavittville: Censorship is never a good idea
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