- by Sena Jeter Naslund
"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last."
This is destined to be remembered as one of the most recognized first sentences in literature--along with "Call me Ishmael."
And Una Spenser, the triumphant hero at the center of Ahab's Wife, may well become every bit as memorable as Ahab.
Inspired by a brief passage in Moby-Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund has created an entirely new universe--a vast, enthralling, and compelling readable saga, spanning a full, rich, eventful, and dramatic life.
In the "soprano voice" whose absence critics lamented in Moby-Dick-- the strong, intelligent voice of a woman whose life is dominated by the sea--Naslund tells many stories.
She narrates a family drama, as the child Una is sent away to live in a lighthouse by her mother in order to protect her from the physical and emotional blows of her religion-mad father.
She spins a romantic adventure, as Una finds early passion with a sailor and, disguised as a cabin boy, runs away to sea to encounter disasters, murder, romance of virtually every variety, and, of course, the behemoths of the deep.
She paints a portrait of a real, loving marriage, as through Una's eyes we see Ahab before the white whale takes his leg and send him into madness.
Finally, she gives us a new perspective on the American experience, as the widowed Una makes a new life for herself in the company of Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others.
Sena Jeter Naslund has thoroughly imbibed the spirit of Herman Melville, and that spirit permeates every page of her novel. But great as her debt to Melville may be,
Ahab's Wife stands alone, intact, and vital for any reader. Inspired by a masterpiece, Ahab's Wife is a legitimate masterwork in its own right.
The vision that informs this magnificent novel is so complete, the nineteenth-century voice so eloquent and sure, one feels the author hasn't so much written this book as lived it.
She has fallen in love with this world, this woman's life, and her book evokes that same connection in the reader. From the opening line and the spellbinding first scene, you will know immediately
that you are in the hands of a masterful story teller, and in the company of an endlessly fascinating woman hero. You will want to immerse yourself in this world--a realm easily entered, enchanting, and fulfilling--and
spend time indulging in one of the consummate human pleasures: reading a brilliantly written, vibrant, uplifting, and deliciously enveloping novel...a bright book of life.
Sena Jeter Naslund is Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville and is on the MFA faculty of Vermont College. She is cofounder of The Louisville Review (edited anthology of poetry, fiction, essay) and of the Fleur-de-Lis Press. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
Other books by Sena Jeter Naslund:
Sherlock in Love : A Novel
The Disobedience of Water : Stories and Novellas
The Animal Way to Love
Ice Skating at the North Pole