Your past doesn't have to limit your present or chain your future....
My first reaction after finishing The Painted Table: the beginning of this story is horrible, the ending is wonderful. And when I say horrible, I mean true to the dark realities of life and very worth reading.
There were many times I wanted to put this book down, because that's how well the author tells us this hard story, but do not set this one aside.
The Painted table is the story of a woman and her daughters.
Saffee and Joann are our main characters, the mother and the eldest daughter.
Because no life is lived in isolation, their story involves many more people, each one portrayed sensitively and genuinely.
This story chronicles Joann's fall into the frightening world of mental illness, and Saffee's attempts to rise up and define her own life beyond her mother's behavior.
I really appreciated the way Suzanne spliced their stories together seamlessly. She let me view both of them with compassion. She made both of them real people.
If I had only had Saffee's story, I would have judged Joann for the childhood she gave her girls, and for the way she distorted their view of life. I would have never looked beyond Joann's actions to the youth she herself had experienced and the trauma that she was dealing with.
If I had only had Joann's story, I wouldn't have been able to see the full effects of isolation and guilt and withdrawal that she and her family experienced.
This book made me ask questions about mental illness and the heavy stigma attached to it.
As young Saffee observes, people visit and bring meals to a neighbor if the neighbor suffers a broken body. There is a community of support that rallies around. She wonders why people who live with an inward pain don't draw the same concern.
I wanted to badly for someone to read out and nurture and help Saffee and her sister April, and maybe even shed a little light into Joann's life, yet few people even tried. As my friend and I agreed when we discussed this book, people were probably afraid to try because they didn't understand. There was no easy solution for Joann, and her actions made people uncomfortable. So they didn't really try.
And at the same time, Saffee feared letting anyone know what was going on and so unwittingly cut off the help that might have come.
The Painted Table is a valuable book. It makes you consider your own legacy, your impact on the future, and it makes you want to support anyone in a home like Joann and Saffee's in whatever way will best bless them. Even if it's just listening and not judging.
Thank you Litfuse for my review copy!
Suzanne Field, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, has taught English as a Second Language in China, Ukraine, and Hawaii. She has also been a magazine editor and home-school teacher. She and her husband have five children and divide their time between Kansas and Hawaii where she is a tutor and mentor