The Painted Table
I wanted to like it, but I didn't
In 1858, a tree is felled that will become a table. In 1921, widowed immigrant Knute Kirkeborg is trying to eke out a living farming the harsh North Dakota prairie, supporting seven daughters and two sons. Daughter Joann hides under the huge kitchen table as she mourns her mother, who died in a Hospital for the Insane.
In 1943, Joann is left at home with her toddler, Sapphire Eve, while husband Nels serves in the navy, yet Joann has no idea how to be a mother, because her own mother was always too busy with the baby. Her parenting style is detached to the point of emotional neglect, because she never learned otherwise. As a result, Saffee doesnÃ¢ÂÂt learn either.
The Painted Table isnÃ¢ÂÂt a conventional novel. Rather, it is selecting vignettes through Joann and SaffeeÃ¢ÂÂs lives that show the family story. As a result, at times it feels as though nothing is happening. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a curious technique, more literary than genre and sometimes itÃ¢ÂÂs difficult to tell whether the main character in the story is Joann, Saffee, or mental illness. This lack of clarity around plot and character did mean the story dragged in places, as I was wondering when something was going to happen.
I wanted to like The Painted Table. The writing is different to what we normally see in Christian fiction, and part of me wanted to like the more literary style. And I wanted to like it because itÃ¢ÂÂs different, not the typical western or Amish romance that makes up so much of Christian fiction. I wanted something that was a little more challenging, but that I would find ultimately rewarding. It had potential, but in the end I didnÃ¢ÂÂt enjoy it because there was too little plot, too little character development, and too much theme.
Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing a free ebook for review.
February 23, 2014
intriguing look at mental illness
The Painted Table by Suzanne Field is an intriguing look at mental illness in a family through three generations. The main character in the book is a table that was brought to the United States by a Norweigan ancestor of Saffee's family many generations earlier. The first part of the book traces Saffee's mother, Joann's descent into mental illness, sparked by a harrowing prairie fire when Joann was a young girl. After hiding under the table through that awful experience, Joann comes to associate it with the foreboding in her home and begins her life-long struggle with mental illness. The second portion of the book traces Saffee's struggle not to succumb to the illness that swallowed her mother.
This book was somewhat disturbing. It was a long way into the story before I started to get glimpses of the redemption that would come later. That said, it was a very interesting look inside a person's mind as she fell further and further away from the regular world and into one of her own creation. I definitely couldn't put it down and stayed up way too late reading in order to find out what happened to these tormented characters. The redemption that does eventually come seems overtly Christian without needing to be that blatant.
All in all, I enjoyed the book once it was over and I was no longer immersed in a mind that has broken with reality.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.comÃÂ® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade CommissionÃ¢ÂÂs 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : Ã¢ÂÂGuides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.Ã¢ÂÂ
February 2, 2014
Suzanne Fields creates an amazing and realistic picture of what it looks like to live in a family dealing with mental illness. We get to see what mental illness looks like mostly from the perspective of a child of a parent with a mental illness. But, through her story, we also get to see what it looks like to be a supportive spouse and loving family. Although the context and story are hard to read at times, you get a better understanding of what life would look like in Saffee's shoes. The pain and memories that a simple painted table brings up are numerous and hard to deal with. I think that this book exemplifies what it means to truly love someone, no matter what obstacles or events come our way. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking to gain more insight on mental illness and its influence on family life.
January 27, 2014
Rich, character-driven drama, best of the best!
The Painted Table by debut author Suzanne Field is truly a gem, so much so that I hope my simple words will encourage many new readers to discover its wealth. Poignant, compelling, uncomfortable, emotional, relevant, redemptive - these are just a few descriptive terms that quickly come to mind. It was hard to read at times, but impossible to put down at the same time - and Suzanne's writing is exquisite. It also has one of the most moving, joyous endings I've ever read. This is a story that I doubt I'll ever forget.
The theme of mental illness is rarely addressed in Christian fiction and Saffee discovers that while friends and neighbors show love and support during many afflictions, mental illness isn't one of them. Suzanne's story is eye opening and gripping with its detail of Joann's gradual path to insanity, its effect on Saffee and her sister April, and Saffee's road to redemption.
A hand-crafted Norwegian table, passed down through generations of the Kirkeborg family, becomes the focal point in how Joann's husband, Nels, and daughters relate to her mental illness. As a young child dealing with the loss of her mother, Joann found the table to be a substitute place of comfort. "Under the table Joann had been a child without love. To be a child without love is a transgression."
We experience this story through the eyes of Saffee, Joann's daughter, as we literally watch her grow up - wincing at many scenes, while rejoicing at others. I loved how two teachers had such a positive effect on the young Saffee: her 6th grade teacher who made her feel that she was a person of worth, and Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Eilert. In her class "Saffee sings, 'Come into my heart, Lord Jesus' . . . and He does. Even though she has often sought to be alone, she experiences a curious relief that she will never be alone again."
Nels was one of my favorite characters, a complex man I came to admire. In the beginning he seems like a husband and father so busy providing for his family that he almost becomes a stranger to them - and a man in constant denial of Joann's illness. But his commitment, love, faithfulness, and desire to protect are qualities we can all look up to. In a conversation with Saffee, Nels explains, "When I married your mother, I promised to stick with her through thick and thin, and I will."
If you've ever felt that God worked through someone He placed in your life, then you can relate to this story. God spoke to Saffee through many Scriptures that she read, but husband Jack's words also had a profound effect: "Maybe the best way to honor your mother is not to become like her."
Rich in its characterization, realism and spiritual themes, The Painted Table is a novel that I highly recommend to all readers. Best of the best in Christian fiction in my opinion.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing an electronic copy of The Painted Table in exchange for my honest review.
January 17, 2014