Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

the-sinners-and-the-sea-rebecca-kannerThe Sinners and the Sea, by Rebecca Kanner is a gritty novel that weaves realism, fantasy, and religious mythology into an exciting and thought-provoking story.

Based on the story of Noah, using the source material of the Torah and Old Testament of the Bible, Kanner tells her story in First Person Present, a style that has become increasingly popular over the last twenty years. It brings an immediacy to the tale that would be lacking in any other form.

Noah’s story is told here from the perspective of the nameless woman who becomes his wife. Born with a birthmark on her forehead, she is condemned as a Demon Child and only her father’s status as a prosperous farmer keeps her from being stoned to death. At nineteen, she is well-past marriage age and has given up hope.

The world depicted is primitive and barbarous, mankind in one of its earliest, most feral incarnations. The land is in the midst of a long drought and the people of her village have decided to kill her as a sacrifice to the gods. Just in time, her father procures a husband, Noah, a man hundreds of years old who is a disciple of the God of Adam.

Needing sons, he takes her as a wife and brings her to the most wicked city in the land, Sorum, where mercenaries kill each other every day and all of the women are whores. This is the evil world that God has decided to destroy. Their sons are Shem, Japheth, and Ham. When God commands Noah to build an ark to take only his wife, three sons and their wives, along with two of all of the animals on earth, Noah gets to work on the project.

It’s important to keep in mind that this is a work of fiction and not an attempt to recreate the Biblical story. Most of the characters belong to Kanner and not the Bible and she has even made changes in the Biblical characters to suit her purpose.

In this vicious world, there are only three people who seem to actually be pure and good. One of them is Noah’s wife, one is her third son, Ham, and the other is Herai, the simple-minded daughter of a whore.

Noah himself is a dried up old man who has a slavish devotion to his God and his calling to convert the sinners of the world to the God of Adam. There is no joy or love in this man. Shem, their oldest son, a man with no control over his sexual urges, constantly sneaks away to sleep with the whores and eventually gets one of them pregnant. Japheth is a cold-blooded killer who is angry all of the time.

Although God is not a character in the book, his personality is apparent through his actions: He is bitter, angry, and indiscriminate in his killing.

The paradox of the novel is that while God is determined to destroy most of humanity and the animals of the world for their wickedness, He apparently doesn’t care that the world is repopulated from sinners, such as Shem and Japheth, which will ultimately result in another world of sinners. There is no net gain from his killing.

The book itself is gritty and raw, very hard to put down once you get started, and the story is expertly told, full of action, and engaging right to the end, but it is not for readers who think that life is all sunshine and lollipops.

Ignoring for a moment the impossibility of the story itself and allowing the fantasy and mythology to be enough to carry it, this novel is about the brutality of life on Earth. The God who runs this world is brutal and uncaring, arbitrary and unreasonable. The fact that he exists and is capable of such madness is almost unthinkable, yet that is the reality of the world of Sinners and the Sea.

It reminds me of a verse from Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”:

God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son.”

Abe said, “Man, you must be putting me on.”

God said, “No.” Abe said, “What?”

God said, “You can do what you want, Abe, but

The next time you see me coming, you better run.”

Abe said, “Where you want this killing done?”

God said, “Out on Highway 61.”

Book Reviews by Author: A – M

Alcott, Luisa MayLuisa May Alcott

(November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888)

Friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau, Ms. Alcott had to work to help support her family, and like Jane Austen before her, she spun stories for her supper. Well known for her one transcendent novel, she also contributed sequels to the well-loved classic.

Little WomenLittle Women Norton Critical Edition

This is the story of four American sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, during and just following the Civil War.  Shepherded by their mother (Marmee), they become friends with their neighbors, Mr. Laurence and his grandson, Teddy (Laurie).  The book follows their lives, as well as various men they become involved with, but the book is concentrated in the person of Jo, the bookish second daughter, who is fifteen at the beginning of the story.

Isaac Asimov


Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Mansfield Park

Sanditon and Other Stories

Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre

Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game

Arthur C. Clarke

The Songs of Distant Earth

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games

Deborah Kay Davies

Grace, Tamar and Laszlo the Beautiful

Timothy Egan

The Worst Hard Time

Nicholas Evans

The Horse Whisperer

John Fowles

The Collector

Karen Hesse

Out of the Dust

Barbara Holland

Katharine Hepburn

Katelan Janke

Survival in the Storm:

The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards

Stephanie Kallos

Broken for You

Rebecca Kanner

The Sinners and the Sea

Jack Kerouac

On The Road

Barbara Kingsolver

Animal Dreams

Ron Koertge

Stoner & Spaz

Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

Billie Letts

Where The Heart Is

Anne McCaffrey

An Introduction to the World of Pern


The Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy



The White Dragon

The Harper Hall Trilogy




The Renegades of Pern

All the Weyrs of Pern

Jack McDevitt

The Academy Novels

An Introduction to the Series

The Engines of God