Ahab's Wife

Ahab's Wife: Or, The Star Gazer by: Sena Jeter Naslund

Challenges: Chunkster Challenge

Published: 1999

# of pages: 666

Quote: "But I did not fail to note: the sky does not fall if you choose to let down your hair." -Una p. 122

This is a story of a young woman, Una, who tells her story from the time she was 12 years old until she is a grown woman who has experienced more than most people can imagine. She is an open-minded person who disregards stereotypes, religion, and common thought patterns. It is quite amazing that almost all of the people she meets are similar in mindset. All the women in the novel are independent and the men accept them as equals. She reveals her secrets and hidden past and because of the knowledge that she has an unorthodox past, she is able to encourage others to confide in her. I liked this about the book because everyone has secrets that strangers would never guess and Una acknowledges others' secrets and accepts them for who they are, just as she longs to be accepted. The only thing I didn't like was although she proclaims to be open-minded, she is very opposed to Christianity. As soon as she discovers someone is a Christian, she automatically dislikes them (of course, most of them are portrayed badly so no wonder she doesn't like them). She meets one kindred spirit who becomes her best friend and when she finds out the other woman is a Christian, she reels with shock. She ignores the fact for a short time and then after leaving the woman's presense, twists her friend's beliefs so that they match up with her own, completely disregarding the woman's own claims. However, part of me wonders if Naslund meant to do this. The book is written in the first person, which means from the POV of an unreliable narrator. Una claims to be accepting and open-minded, but can't accept or try to understand Christianity as it is.

This novel is based off of Melville's novel, Moby Dick. I recommend reading MD before this novel. I didn't read it and still enjoyed Ahab's Wife, but I'm planning to in the future. Naslund refers to several historical figures that should also be known to the reader such as Margaret Fuller, Hawthorne, Emerson, Frederick Douglass, and Byron. You should read Wordsworth's poems "I wandered lonely as a cloud" and "Tintern Abbey" and Shelley's poem "Mont Blanc". Voltaire is also mentioned, including his Candide, and Goethe's Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther. I am familiar with all of these thanks to my Romantic Era Lit class I took last Spring and I think it gave me a better appreciation for Ahab's Wife. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and recommend it to others. It isn't one of my favorites just because it was unnecessarily long and had a lot of philosophical ramblings that could have been left out and not affected the tone of the novel, but I enjoyed the story as a whole.

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