Debut author, Suzanne Field, explores the painful process of watching a loved one drift into insanity through omniscient narration, an unusual point-of-view for this type of story, yet one that effectively provides an appropriate disjointed aspect.
Joann hides from her childhood fears under the family’s heirloom Norwegian table. Her older brothers and sisters tease her for her need to seek solace under its protective aprons. As she grows into adulthood, her fears follow her and manifest into odd quirks that later develop into full-on madness. Her daughter Saffee suffers terribly, watching her mother slip away from her. Saffee craves having a relationship where she feels safe and worthwhile and cannot find this fulfillment through her dysfunctional family structure. As Saffee grows from child into teenager and finally into a young woman she realizes that God is always there for her and she begins to find solace in His presence; however she continues to have doubts about herself and wonders if she will inherit her mother’s condition.
I’m not sure why the author chose to present the story in an omniscient point-of-view. In some ways it allows for an impassive participation by lending a distance, as if we are watching a family unravel in almost a clinical mode of observation. On the other hand, without a definite point-of-view, it is difficult to connect to the characters. This form of narrative involves more telling than showing, which leaves one wanting more detail. Overall, the novel presents a fascinating topic: nature or nurture? Does Joann inherit her mother’s nervous condition and pass it on to her daughter Saffee or does Saffee learn her quirks watching her mother?
“Saffee’s heart thumps. Hysteria? Acute mania? Hospital for the insane? The words glare like neon lights. Her mother and her grandmother? Insane? What was the term she learned in psychology? Evolutionary lineage? For an instant, only an instant, her chest tightens.” (244)
Saffee finds fulfillment through the support of her husband Jack, who reassures her that she doesn’t have to become her mother. And she wants to believe God has promised her life will be different. The idea of breaking patterns through love’s redemption is the backbone of this debut novel and is one that provides a satisfying ending.
Disclaimer: BookSneeze provided this book in exchange for a fair review.
- What’s the Right Age or Moment to Pass on an Heirloom? (joindahunt.com)
- The Painted Table by Suzanne Field (gradeabookaholic.wordpress.com)