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Extended Audio Sample Ahab’s Wife: Or, The Star-Gazer Audiobook, 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: October 1999 ISBN: 9780743540933
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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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randi | 2/2/2014

    " A great perspective on a classic story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kristel | 1/22/2014

    " This book was a departure for me. I typically had read either science non-fiction books or science related thrillers written by men. A book by a female author without twists and turns was an eye opener. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tami | 1/19/2014

    " Sad but beautiful! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Courtney Milford | 1/15/2014

    " Fabulous sequel to Moby Dick - surprised it has not been, to my knowledge, made into a movie. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lili Hertzler | 12/26/2013

    " Want to read it again. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kate Hamlet | 12/15/2013

    " This is a captivating book from the point of view of Captain Ahab's wife. Her story is intricate and personal. Sena Jeter Naslund has a beautiful way of writing...almost poetic. One I'll read over and over. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 T.k. Thorne | 12/9/2013

    " Beautifully written book. Even if you've never read MOBY DICK (Captain Ahab and the white whale classic) you will enjoy this story from the point of view of Ahab's wife. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret Rose | 12/2/2013

    " This book was a very complex read for me. I was so depressed at times that I wanted to throw it across the room and shout, "No more!" But even with all the mixed feelings, I continued on and was able to finish. Looking back on it now even with the somber mood, it was a very good read. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shellene | 11/26/2013

    " Very long and very poetic. I loved the time frame and the story was good, but when it takes a whole page to describe the color of the ocean and how it makes her feel... too detailed made the story line slow. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anne | 11/19/2013

    " Contemporary issues dealt with a somewhat fantasmagorical journey of a young girl coming into womanhood and all it entails. The journeys literal, intellectual and sexual are stratling and enthralling. I loved this novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Belle Flek | 10/17/2013

    " Very Good book, I enjoyed the whole book front to back. Very Glad I bought it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanne Sprano | 5/13/2013

    " This was given to mr by a friend when I found myself having to recover from surgery. It is not an easy read, but so enjoyable. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Tory | 1/8/2013

    " i finished it. but a bit of the romance novel for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meghan | 7/17/2012

    " I, unexpectedly, really liked this book. There were several slower parts, and it is a serious and intense read, but there was a lot to keep me reading. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anna Anthony | 5/2/2012

    " When this book ended I was devastated because I had been living in it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Elliat | 3/28/2012

    " Haven't finished reading this book yet... had to stop at the Cannibalism scene... was a bit much for me, but looking forward to finishing it, and also would like to read Moby Dick with it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Natalie | 2/9/2012

    " I don't know if I like the way this author writes, it's a little flowery. We'll see. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lyra | 2/6/2012

    " Took me a long time to read, since I've been super busy this fall, but loved it nevertheless. A story of an incredibly interesting woman's life. I've always hesitated to read it, since I have nightmares about reading Moby Dick in high school. But of course, this is nothing like. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Akrista | 1/29/2012

    " This is a super story and wonderfully written. It is a hard read for me but I am enjoying the story and I never read Moby Dick...but may have to now. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathryn | 11/26/2011

    " This book came up on my suggested list and I remembered that I read this book a long time ago. I don't remember a lot of details, but I know I liked the book. FYI, I cried while reading this book - it has some very sad parts. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jill | 6/7/2011

    " One of my all time favorites. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 5/28/2011

    " I haven't read Moby Dick but this seems a well-crafted tribute. The writing style and depth of character seems consistent with what little I know of the original. It's a long winding life story, be prepared for a patient journey; every detail is interesting and rings true. Immersive and epic. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jenny | 5/25/2011

    " I wanted to like this book but I just couldn't get myself to finish it. I kept waiting for something to happen in the book. Una was so passive throughout the part that I read. I became bored and couldn't continue to try to find interest in it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 5/4/2011

    " Never like Moby Dick. Loved this novel.

    The characters are very interesting and the story lingered for a long time after I finished the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Liz | 5/3/2011

    " The book had a strong start, but fell flat at the end. I would still recommend it, though. Now I have added Nantucket to my list of "must see" places. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ramona | 5/2/2011

    " I was captivated immediately. I took a long time reading this because I continually re-read passages and pages. What a treat! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gayle | 4/25/2011

    " Very complex story that intrigued me thoughout. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lorie | 4/16/2011

    " I loved this book. Sena Jeter Naslund is an extraordinary writer. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gail | 4/8/2011

    " I read this book quite a while ago so it's not fresh in my mind. I remember the story being really good but lacking somehow. You'll have to refresh my memory when you're done reading. "

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About the Author
Author Sena Jeter Naslund

Sena Jeter Naslund is a cofounder and program director of the Spalding University (Louisville) brief-residency MFA in Writing, where she edits The Louisville Review and Fleur-de-Lis Press. A winner of the Harper Lee Award and the Southeastern Library Association Fiction award, she is the author of eight previous works of fiction, including Ahab's Wife, a finalist for the Orange Prize. She recently retired from her position as Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville.