There may be animals, an imminent flood and a guy named Noah, but Noah’s Wife is not the familiar Genesis account. Imagine not a wind-tossed ark on rough waters but a town where the rains began and never stopped. Never a break in the gray clouds, never a feeling besides damp, no change in the forecast. The town at the center of Noah’s Wife is such a place—a place where the weather is the topic of conversation. The town’s inhabitants, who have stayed and watched their town slowly contract and the waters rise, are embittered, doggedly optimistic or simply resigned. First-time author Lindsay Starck excels at detailing her characters’ emotional and physical responses to this bizarre meteorological situation.
Into this near-ghost town arrive Noah and his wife. He, an energetic pastor with salvation on his mind, brings her, a quieter participant, skeptical but supportive. As the rain continues and the town’s once-lauded zoo floods, the townspeople begrudgingly rally to shelter the remaining animals. It’s the stuff of slapstick comedy: tortoises tucked into car trunks and monkeys buckled into passenger seats. Mauro, the happy-go-lucky Italian general store owner, becomes enamored with the brilliant peacocks he almost runs over. Mrs. McGinn, head of the town council, tries to maintain normalcy as she runs her diner and penguins bed beside the dairy in her cooler. But years of rain have made the people hard, and their rescue effort only adds to the feelings of despair and falls short of reuniting them.
Noah is especially floored by the town’s somber state and, as his eagerness cracks and doubts blossom, his wife finds herself without the man she put all her faith in. Noah, the man who “walked with God,” may have gotten the call, but it is his wife who ends up being the one to answer, to lead.
Starck writes thoughtfully, with a real ear for the rhythm of language and talent for finding surprising moments of humor amidst the dark nights of the soul her characters face. How do they hold onto hope in this rain-drenched place, where they have become experts at noticing different shades of gray? With wisdom and insight, Starck captures all their losing, leaving behind and longing. It takes one last defiant stand, one last tenacious grasp at hope, for this community to become one.