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Ahab's Wife: or, The Star-gazer    by Sena Jeter Naslund order for
Ahab's Wife
by Sena Jeter Naslund
Order:  USA  Can
Perennial, 2009 (1999)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Sena Jeter Naslund's Ahab's Wife is an epic novel of the sea and the people who sailed it ... 'Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.' That opening line is enough to make you read on.

Una Spenser is born before the American Civil War and her life is affected by the happenings around her. Her father, a harsh believer, drives her from the family home when she is twelve. She cannot conform to his strict upbringing. She goes to live at a New England lighthouse with an aunt and uncle. Life is good there and while she lives a quiet life, she is loved and educated.

At sixteen, she runs away to sea and marries a madman. From there she meets Captain Ahab and weds him. Tragedy seems to follow this young woman, but she is made of stern stuff and weathers diversity with strength and a belief in the future. Ahab's Wife is character driven. And what wonderful characters. Una herself is enough to carry this story but the secondaries who surround her are well received in their own right.

Ahab's Wife is lyrical and literary. Thought provoking, poetic and fey, this book also takes on the hard topics of slavery and women's suffrage. Una's experiences as a boy on board a whaler show her tough and determined side. The loss of her mother and first child give her emotional balance. The strength of the author's descriptive words brings the nineteenth century right into the room with you.

A satisfyingly long read, Ahab's Wife, while first published ten years ago, is timeless. Well worth a read. It's a novel that will stay in your thoughts long after the last page is reluctantly turned.

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