This is the fourth in a series of posts on the books chosen for this yearâ€™s Canada Reads on CBC Radio. Previous entries: Icefields by Thomas Wharton, King Leary by Paul Quarrington, and From the Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant.
When I first looked up this year’s books, Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley is the one I was most interested in reading. While I was afraid that as the retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark, it might be preachy and religious, the summary I read hinted that it might be both a bit more humorous and a bit darker than that. It certainly didn’t let down. Though I did find myself at times wondering what elements were specifically motivated by biblical references, the story really took off on its own. It was much better once I stopped expecting things from what I know of the biblical story and let Timothy Findley lead the way.
There are a lot of dark and disturbing things in here. Yes, there’s cannibalism and the famous unicorn scene, but there’s much more going on than that. The consequence of the former and the motivation of the latter stay with me much more than the events themselves. The characters of Yahweh and Lucy are not at all what we might expect of them, twisting the whole picture around until it’s no longer recognizable. There is something sinister in the characters we might expect to be the good guys, and something holy where you’d never look for it.
I especially like the way the book wraps up. It is very interesting to consider what the flood changed, what ended up surviving on the ark, and if it could have gone any other way. Like other favourite books of mine (e.g., The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald, and 2006 Canada Reads selection Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden), Not Wanted on the Voyage has hooked into my head and won’t let go. Of the four Canada Reads books I’ve read so far, this is far and away my favourite.