A retelling—or perhaps the telling for the first time—of the story of Noe (Noah) and his family. Talking animals (Noe alone among humans can communicate with them), Nephilim, marital love that deepens over centuries, terrible evil, modern technology and culture slipping into the age of the patriarchs (or is time running the other way?), an ark larger on the inside than than the out, a mysterious green lady, a visit to sheol, the three Magi, saints of the Church, and above all the Mystery. Beneath the Silent Heavens by Brian Moore is unlike any tale I have read before. It does not neatly fit into our literary categories; and it is right that it does not. Life resists our taxonomies.
Beneath the Silent Heavens needs to be read slowly, savored, contemplated, imaginatively and spiritually engaged. At times I tried to rush through, as I might with some other fantasy or children’s story, but the book kept calling me up short. “Slow down, pay attention,” it kept telling me. “Reread the sentence, paragraph, maybe even the entire chapter. There is more here than meets the eye.” This is not a children’s story. There is deep theology here, but it lies mainly hidden—until it’s not. As William Desmond might remind us, being is porous. One never knows when the holy transcendence will surprise us.
I wholeheartedly commend Beneath the Silent Heavens. It is not a perfect book. There are elements that don’t seem to work, or at least not as well as I would prefer; but that may simply reflect the tale’s unconventionality or my own deficiencies as a reader. You have to read it to find out what I mean. But I promise you will still be thinking about Noe and the animals days later. You may find yourself wanting, as I do, to reread the story, hoping to better penetrate its mysteries.
The last three paragraphs broke my heart.