Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review - The Painted Table


A beautiful heirloom ingrained with family memory has become a totem of a life Saffee would rather forget---a childhood disrupted by her mother's mental illness.
Saffee does not want the table. By the time she inherits the object of her mother's obsession, the surface is thick with haphazard layers of paint, and heavy with unsettling memories.

After a childhood spent watching her mother slide steadily into insanity, painting and re-painting the ancient table, Saffee has come to fear that seeds of psychosis may lie dormant within her. But as an adult with a family of her own, Saffee must confront her mother's torment if she wants to defend herself against it.

Traversing four generations over the course of a century, The Painted Table is an epic portrait of inherited memory, proclivity, and guilt. It is a sprawling narrative affirmation that a family artifact---like a family member---can bear the marks of one's entire past . . . as well as intimations of one's redemption.


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.

Learn more about Suzanne at:


This is one of the most interesting and enjoyable books I've ever read. It kept me captivated from the first page to the last.

The story begins in 1921 with Joann, a young girl in a family full of girls and on a farm in the middle of North Dakota prairie. Her father is from Norway and despairs that he has only 2 sons to help him on the farm. His despair spills over onto his wife as he demands of her another son (as if she had any control over that!). As she lies pregnant with yet another child, he tells his wife if it's not a boy, they will have to give away. Joann's mother dies giving birth to this child and then her father puts her death certificate into a box and Joann sneaks to read what it says. There are three things that Joann puts to memory, "hysteria", "exhaustion from mania" and "Hospital for the Insane". These words mark little seven year old Joann.

In their homestead they have a table, brought over to America from Norway, and Joann hides under this table all the time. It's her place of safety when the fires come, and these fires mark her little mind, too.

Fast forward to 1943 when we find Joann married to Nels and they have a little girl names Sapphire (Saffee for short). After a time, they add a little sister, April, to the mix. We see how the past comes back to haunt Joann over and over again and it affects her little family in profound ways. When Joann inherits the Norway table, it starts a cycle of mania that keeps the family off-center for years.  

I really loved how much Nels always loves Joann, almost to her detriment. He focuses on her good qualities throughout their marriage and is always loyal. This is such a beautiful example of love. I also love the story of redemption in the book. Jesus is the healer of all hearts and we see Him at work in this story in a truly beautiful way. There truly is a good versus evil in the world and this book shows this in a remarkable way.

I just couldn't put this book down. It was sad and happy and all the wonderful things you want in a book. You grow to love and care about Saffee and you have compassion for, yet despise Joann for all the sadness she causes. This is a definite "must read" for your reading list!

*This book was provided to me for my honest review by LitFuse Publicity Group

Blessings - Julie

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