review: Obedience

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by V. G. Kilgore

The story of Noah’s Ark is an important fixture in Old Testament scripture from the Christian Bible, but previous to reading this account (which sparked some interest in further research), I was not aware that it also has ancient origins in religions such as Judaism, Islam and Bahá’í, as well as the earliest surviving work of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Kilgore’s account follows the Bible’s characters, though is infused with personalities, actions, and motives beyond the original narrative. It follows the story of Noah’s son, Ham, and his family from the years before the flood, through their perilous ordeal and the aftermath.

Ham is Noah’s third and least favored son. Though he is skilled and hard-working, he was obstinate about selecting his own wife—of course his choice being a woman beneath the family in Noah’s eyes. Lita will come to prove her worthiness, but the patriarch nonetheless shows prejudice toward Ham’s progeny, which plays out in the Bible with the curse of Canaan. In this story, Ham’s young son Canaan is yet a child, but the events which would prove to shape his life unfold, giving a detailed account of why that particular branch of Noah’s family falls from grace.

This is a love story several times over, and can be a little silly with it. The characters are full of faults, nature logistics is off (indeed, how else to explain the supernatural events?), and reasoning seems to be heavily influenced by El, the mysterious deity whom only speaks to Noah directly. This cannot be categorized simply as religious fiction, as it uses a rather historically balanced approach, and I believe this is the author’s aim. As stated in her guest post a few weeks ago, “It’s important to consider these ancient stories with a more enlightened perspective.” Overall, I would label it a historical novel with Biblical undertones, but I do not think overly religious readers will feel it adds substance to their belief system. Luckily, I am not one of those and enjoyed the story. Any novel that prompts readers to dig further into a subject is worth a read, and this one raises questions that go beyond the Bible’s interpretation.

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