Monday, February 22, 2016

Mourner's Bench ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Blog Tour Promo* & Review

by Sanderia Faye

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Date of Publication: September 15, 2015
# of pages: 340

 Praise for Mourner's Bench:
"An absorbing meditation on the meaning of religion in a small town as well as a keen-eyed perspective on the way one African-American community encountered the civil rights movement. An astute coming-of-age tale set against an all-too-relevant background." 
-- Kirkus 

HALL WAYS REVIEW:  It's the early 1960s in Maeby, Arkansas, and eight-year-old Sarah Jones is wise beyond her years in assessing the worlds of race, religion, and family drama. In little Sarah Jones, author Sanderia Faye provides one of the most complex, memorable characters I have come across in some time.  Sarah says such practical things, such as “I reserved my passion for when I would know what I was getting upset about,” and remarks about her mother that “she flipped around town like a catfish on the carving table.” Sarah has an amazing ability to read people in their gestures and body language and also in the meanings behind their words. She so desperately wants to “get her religion,” and though she may not understand the nuances of faith and religion in 1964 as she prepares to sit on the mourner’s bench, she certainly does by the end of 1965 (as an almost ten-year-old).   

"I only owned the encyclopedia up to the letter H, and school
was closed for the summer or I would've looked it up."

One of the great aspects of Faye’s book is how much she makes the reader think about and consider – not just as a piece of historical fiction, but as it relates to our modern world. While there are areas to celebrate in how far we have progressed as a nation, it is also painful to realize how little progress has been made in other areas.  Readers will need to be patient with the pace of the first half of the book, as there is a lot of information presented in order for Faye to give us a clear and accurate window of the times to look through. The limitations of those who lived on the “colored side of the tracks” were plentiful and heartbreaking, especially in contrast to what privileges and power the whites enjoyed and flaunted.  Yet, despite the living conditions and the inequality, what shines through is the hope, love, and compassion in Sarah’s family and whole community.  Readers will be struck by the repeated generosity of those who have nearly nothing, but repeatedly give it away to help a person or cause. 

The characters and relationships in Mourner’s Bench are wonderfully dynamic and realistic, and I found the recurring theme of respect to be particularly interesting.  Sarah has been taught by her grandmother (Muhdea) and great-grandmother (Granny) that she must respect and obey her mother (Esther), who has been mostly absent from Sarah’s life and who Sarah clearly doesn’t believe deserves respect. Muhdea and Granny (who are richly fleshed-out characters) do not respect Esther at all and see her as a sinner and lost soul; yet they demand Sarah show Esther respect. This hypocrisy is not lost on young Sarah, and readers will see Sarah grow and mature as she reasons through Esther’s actions and motivations before even the adults truly understand them.   Of course, as Sarah begins to understand the strides her mother and others are making in their fight for equality, Sarah realizes she shares those same dreams after all.

I highly recommend this book for adults and young adults alike. With the rich descriptions of the people and the town and the times, Mourner’s Bench is an experience you won’t want to miss.


Check out these other great blog stops on the tour!

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*NOTE FROM KRISTINE at HALL WAYS: The content of this promo post was provided by Lone Star Book Blog Tours.  If you're a Texas blogger interested in joining the ranks of Lone Star Book Blog Tours, contact Kristine via the Contact Form found at the bottom of the Hall Ways blog..


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