Author: T.K. Thorne
Publisher: Chalet Publishers LLC
Price: $16.95 (Paper)
09/26/2011 Since T.K. (Teresa) Thorne took a B.A. and an M.S.W. degree from the U of A and retired after 22 years in 1999 at the rank of captain from the Birmingham Police Department, one might have expected her to write police procedurals or thrillers, set, one would imagine, in Birmingham.
Instead, this debut novel is a historical tale, one should actually say pre-historical, set in 5500 BCE in what is now northern Turkey, near the shores of the Black Sea.
When the novel opens, Na'amah, the first-person narrator, is 15 years old, strapped across the back of an auroch, a kind of ox, having been seized by slavers. She will escape from her captors, learn to ride an auroch, and later in the novel be the first in her tribe to tame and ride a wild horse.
We learn that she was too long in the birth canal, that her mother died in childbirth, and that she possesses odd powers. She is seen as "different."
For example, she has synesthesia. She sees sounds as shapes, usually in color, when others only hear sounds.
In a Postscript describing her research for the book, Thorne tells the reader Na'amah is an "Asperger savant," "high functioning."
She also has prodigious powers of memory and nearly total recall. A shepherdess, she can tell which sheep belong to whom, through several generations of sheep. This is a valuable skill. She also kills a tiger with a lucky shot from a slingshot. She is quite a girl.
The narrator/heroine is fully developed, but her brother, grandmother, friends and husband are less so. This novel is essentially plot-driven.
As the action continues, and there is lots of action—kidnapping, rape, murders, incest, miscarriage, childbirth, religious persecution, small floods and hard times—we learn that to the north of the village is the freshwater Black Lake. Much higher, and to the west is the Salt Sea, what we would now call the Hellespont and Dardanelles.
The two bodies of water are separated by a natural wall of stone, and as the novel progresses there are tremors, culminating in "the big one." The wall of stone comes down and the Mediterranean rushes in.
Na'amah, as the title suggests, has become the wife of an older man, a boat builder/carpenter named Noah.
In the Bible, God, disgusted with his Creation, commands Noah to build an ark. In "Noah's Wife" it is Na'amah who demands the houseboat as her "bride price." This turns out to be an excellent idea.
In the novel, the local culture is, in fact, in flux. Her people practice hunting, herding and agriculture and are moving from worship of the earth mother goddess toward one male God.
Na'amah herself is an agnostic, a true prehistoric skeptic, but ironically her unusual powers suggest she may be herself a priestess of the goddess at a time when this is not a safe practice.
"Noah's Wife" is from a small press and has sold well through word of mouth and won the 2009 Historical Fiction Book of the Year from "ForeWord Magazine." It's not my kind of book, but I was curious.
As with "The Clan of the Cave Bear" and other prehistoric novels, the language at first seemed formal and stilted. After all, we have no tapes from 5500 BCE, but after a while the reader adjusts.