Ahab’s Wife, Sena Jeter Naslund
Monday, October 23, 2017
Before I read the book, I saw the photo from the cover at an exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The picture shows a woman in dark clothes, probably widow’s weeds, on the beach, gazing at the remarkably large piece of debris from a wrecked ship, and as I stood in the museum, very much in the late 20th century, it took me to the life many women led nearly 200 years ago, those who were wives of men who sailed away to hunt whales, trade goods and seek fortunes. The narrator of Ahab’s Wife is different, though, from the typical wife; even though she waits for Ahab to return, and loves him very much, she had a remarkable life before meeting Ahab, and has a life after, fulfilling the promise of the novel’s celebrated first sentence: “Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.” Read this book in conjunction with two others – Moby Dick (of course) and In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick and you’ll be transported to Massachusetts of another era.