Friday, January 3, 2014

The Painted Table by Suzanne Field

This is an unusual book, is hard to describe, yet is a very interesting book to read. The novel centers around a table made by a Norwegian and brought over to the U.S. There is a Norwegian family trying to make it on the Midwest prairie in the 1920s. A prairie fire sweeps through and children are hiding under that table. Years later one of the children, Joann, marries and her husband is drafted for war. That separation causes the seeds of insanity in Joann. Joann births a child, Sapphire (Saffee), who struggles as she grows up in a household of turmoil, watching her mother frantically paint and repaint that table.

The book is written in the present tense but not in first person. Saffee is the main character yet is always referred to either by name or a pronoun. The present tense third person is a little disconcerting. There are also huge gaps in the narrative. We might have an intense day of action and then will have skipped years when the next chapter starts. I found it difficult to read but wondered if that was the intent of the author. Reading the novel is as disconcerting as is the subject of struggling with the possibility of inheriting insanity. By the time I finished the book, however, I was convinced the unusual writing style was worth it.

There are several themes covered in this book. There is mental illness and more specifically, the threat of inherited mental illness as Saffee's mother and grandmother both suffered from it. That threat is something Saffee must overcome. Another theme is the dedication of a person when the spouse is mentally ill and must be in a care facility. The overarching theme, I think, is restoration. We see that God can and does restore what insanity has robbed from Saffee.

I found the novel a difficult one to read because of the subject matter and the writing style of the author. It is well worth reading, however, and would make a fine choice for a reading group. Discussion questions are included.

Food for thought: is it “Love me in spite of my imperfections” or “Love me for my imperfections”?

I am taking part in a tour of this book and you can see more reviews here.

Suzanne Field is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has taught English as a second language in China and Ukraine. She has 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. Find out more about Suzanne at

Thomas Nelson, 315 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of this review.

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