Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

August 7, 2008
By Oriah Amit, Los Angeles, CA

Sena Jeter Naslund's engaging novel Ahab's Wife is a refreshing, feminist take on the timeless classic Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. In Moby Dick, there is a single line in which Captain Ahab, the protagonist, mentions his young wife, who remains unnamed. From this miniscule reference, Naslund crafts the imaginative and thoroughly entertaining story of Una Spenser, the woman who would become Ahab's wife.

The novel begins with Una's childhood. Growing up with a fanatical Christian father who tried to impose his beleifs upon her, Una learned at a young age to be fearless and always be true to her self. Later, at the age of sixteen, her restless, adventerous spirit drives Una to masquerade as a cabin boy and set out to sea, where she proves that girls can do exactly the same things that boys can.

The story follows many more of Una's adventures, both at sea and on land, but also portrays the darker side of her life. The novel addresses a wide range of difficulties that face Una, including a husband who goes mad, childloss, and loneliness. Above all, hoever, the novel is a powerful story about courage, empowerment, and the triumph of the human spirit.

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