Guernica Magazine

Sarah Blake: A Biblical Woman Gets a Modern Voice

The author of the stunning debut novel Naamah on reimagining the story of the ark to be feminist and surreal, with a healthy dose of agnosticism. The post Sarah Blake: A Biblical Woman Gets a Modern Voice appeared first on Guernica.

Beginning writers are often taught to avoid certain tropes, including the retelling of fairy tales and myths. But retellings can be magical when deployed correctly. Such is the case with Sarah Blake’s debut novel, Naamah. Naamah is the wife of the Biblical Noah (of ark-building fame), and the book tells her story, from her perspective, in refreshingly modern prose and with very un-biblical characteristics. She questions the whole “husband talking to God” thing, and even the existence of God Himself—a skeptic in a time when, as Blake notes, belief in God was not optional. She has deep survivor’s guilt—increased because she left behind her female lover in the flood. She’s crass, selfish, aloof, and unprepared to be the mother of nations, especially when she can barely connect to her sons and their wives. She’s human, in other words—something not all Bible heroes are. She is deeply flawed, and therefore deeply relatable.

Blake is a poet, and the novel came out of a collection of poems about women in mythology, exploring the darker sides of real or fictitious icons who are held up as role models. The novel plumbs those depths well, exploring what it means to be a woman trapped in circumstances not of her making, and how one might seek to disrupt life in order to perhaps change those circumstances. Blake’s interest in fantasy and sci-fi is evident, too, in dream sequences, visions, and angels both friendly and fallen; this is a book where anything can happen, and does. Accordingly, it’s extremely hard to put down; I blew through it in two days, happy to be lost in this world and this woman. So much of being a woman means balancing want and need, “should” and “must,” personal and societal. Blake has struck that balance in an improbable setting and with unlikely characters—a high bar for a debut novel.

I spoke with Blake as she was preparing to move from Philadelphia to London, about the inspirations and impulses behind the book; moving from poetry to prose; the freedoms of rewriting within a known story frame; and our shared love for the movie .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from Guernica Magazine

Guernica Magazine12 min read
Holy Love, Holy Rage
A female, feminist minister on the personal and political battle for reproductive rights in the South. The post Holy Love, Holy Rage appeared first on Guernica.
Guernica Magazine11 min read
Anthems For The Anthropocene
Eco-hardcore music, with its aggressive lyrics and antisocial performances, upended stereotypes of hippie environmentalists—today those visceral live performances match the sense of panic around environmental concerns. The post Anthems for the Anthro
Guernica Magazine14 min read
Jasmine Fingers
How does the poem keep us there? in memory? in the traces? keep us coming back? The post Jasmine Fingers appeared first on Guernica.