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Extended Audio Sample Ahab’s Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer, by Sena Jeter Naslund Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (18,558 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Sena Jeter Naslund Narrator: Maryann Plunkett Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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“Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last.”

This is destined to be remembered as one of the most-recognized first sentences in literature—along with “Call me Ishmael”—and Una Spenser, the transcendent hero at the center of Ahab’s Wife, may well become every bit as memorable as Ahab.

Inspired by a brief passage, in Moby-Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund has created an entirely new universe—an epic-scale, enthralling, and compelling saga, spanning a full, rich, eventful, and dramatic life. In the “soprano voice” whose absence critics lamented in Moby-Dick—the strong intelligent voice of a woman whose life is dominated by the sea—Naslund tells many stories.

She narrates a family drama, as the child Una is sent away to live in a lighthouse to escape the blows of her religion-mad father. She spins a romantic adventure, as Una finds early passion with a sailor, and disguised as a cabin boy runs away to sea. She paints a portrait of a real, loving marriage, as through Una’s eyes we see Ahab before the White Whale takes his leg and sends him into madness. Finally, she gives us a new perspective on the American experience, as the widowed Una makes a new life for herself in the company of Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, Emerson, and others.

Sena Jeter Naslund has thoroughly imbibed the spirit of Herman Melville, and that spirit permeates every scene of her novel. But great as her debt to Melville may be, Ahab’s Wife stands alone, intact and vital. Inspired by a masterpiece, it is a masterwork in its own right.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Naslund has taken less than a paragraph’s worth of references to the captain’s young wife from Herman Melville’s 'Moby-Dick' and fashioned from this slender rib not only a woman but an entire world.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Packed with heartbreaking struggle and richly imagined characters, including wonderful cameo appearances from a host of historical figures. Una’s tumultuous story contains enough tragedy and triumph for a dozen novels. This is the kind of epic you sink into and willingly get lost in. Yes—I can’t resist—it’s a whale of a book.” 

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “A deliciously old-fashioned bildungsroman, adventure story, and romance…with a suspenseful, affecting, historically accurate, and seductive narrative…Una is an enchanting protagonist: intellectually curious, sensitive, imaginative, and kind…A splendid novel that amply fulfills its ambitious purpose, offering a sweeping yet intimate picture of a remarkable woman who both typifies and transcends her times.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “A ravishingly detailed re-creation of the worlds of nineteenth-century antebellum America and of Melville’s seminal Moby-Dick…A genuine epic of America: an inspired homage to one of our greatest writers that brilliantly reinterprets, and in many ways rivals, his masterpiece.” 

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Lauryll | 2/16/2014

    " one of the best books i have ever read. novel written in poetry prose! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Richard | 2/16/2014

    " In spite of being long and written in the style of 19th Century American literature this is an absolutely fascinating novel. Starting from the one paragraph in Moby Dick which mentions Ahab's wife and son, it creates a story of the kind of woman who might have been his wife and describes the world she would have lived in. A good read for anyone who is interested in pre-Civil War American history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Cathy Belk | 2/11/2014

    " Loved this - got a little long, and moments a bit ridiculous (survived in ocean by being a cannibal?) but overall, loved it. A tribute to my friend Sue :-) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Erika | 2/3/2014

    " A little hard to get into and could have ended a little sooner, but the middle 300 pages is absolutely amazing. Poetic writing and scandalous events make for a great read. "

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