In the Shadow of the Ark Booktalk
- Grades: 9–12
About this book
“In the tradition of the adult novel, The Red Tent, comes this story of the biblical flood... Strikingly reveals the human condition at the hour of its destruction.” – Booklist
“Well suited to middle school libraries.” – Voice of Youth Advocates
In the days before the Flood, a huge boat is built in the desert, and two people fall in love, but only one is destined to be on that boat when the rains begin.
Who were the people who built the Ark for Noah and his family? There’s no way he could have built it himself – he was a desert wanderer, with no knowledge of ship building. And a boat that large would require hundreds of workers, tons of materials, and at least one person who knew how to build a boat large enough and seaworthy enough to survive the coming Flood.
Ra Jana’s father was that man. His people had been fishermen and boat-builders for generations. And he knew as soon as he saw the huge boat taking shape in the middle of the desert that they were doing it all wrong. If they kept on as they’d begun, the boat would capsize and sink. He understood why when he realized who was building it. They were Rrattika, a race of wanderers, nomads with no sense of home. They lived hand to mouth, with never a thought of the future. His race considered them vermin, an infestation of the earth. They seldom bathed, wore long, loose garments that were usually dirty, and lived in tents instead of proper houses. It would demean him to work with them. But the Builder and his son Ham were very persuasive, and the proud boatbuilder was convinced to stay. The boat was torn down, and the work on a new one began.
Ra Jana and her parents are dark skinned and wear only loincloths. Her beautiful mother has been paralyzed for years and communicates only by blinking her left eye. Ra Jana and her father spend much of their time caring for her. In this desert shipyard, nothing is more prized than water. But the only water women can find is dirty, sometimes full of gravel and insects. There is no way for Ra Jana to keep herself and her mother clean with the kind of cool, clear water they are used to. So she takes her mother’s divining rod and finds a spring hidden deep in the hills that surround the shipyard. And even though she shares her water, she tells no one where her spring is.
The Builder’s youngest son, Ham, sees Ra Jana caring for her mother, and intrigued by her beauty, spends time talking with her, and soon they fall in love. Ham is unmarried, but his bride has already been chosen for him. Neelata is the niece of a wealthy trader, who has given the Builder a huge bride price to help pay for the cost of building the boat. As Ham’s wife, Neeleta will be assured of a place on the boat. The Builder is old and stubborn, and only his family will be allowed on board. Ham does all that he can to change his father’s mind, but to no avail. Ra Jana is an outsider, from a different race, and she cannot go.
The weeks and months passed, the Ark grew nearer to completion, and Ham grew more and more determined to get Ra Jana on board, one way or another. Will the Builder change his mind at the last minute, or will Ra Jana be one of the thousands who will be swept away when the forty days of rain begin?
This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart