Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recommended Read - Fiction by Mary DeMuth

Watching the Tree Limbs
by Mary DeMuth
NavPress, 2006
Fiction, 239 pages


Wishing on Dandelions
by Mary DeMuth
NavPress, 2006
Fiction, 257 pages

DeMuth has shared her own story of sexual abuse as a child, and she knows whereof she writes. Clearly, although the subject and themes of these two books are difficult, they read with ease and grace. That in itself is a triumph.

Watching the Tree Limbs takes place in the small town of Burl, Texas. Heroine Maranatha Weatherall is a nine-year-old, imaginative girl with a life readers quickly identify as unsatisfactory. Then she meets a young boy named General who repeatedly rapes her, and she has no one she can turn to for help.

There are other themes. Mara’s identity is uncertain. Childhood friendship factors in. Mara’s friend Camilla, knowledgeable about much but secretive about her family, offers helpful hints for coping with events. The relationship between two young girls shines through their antics, and Camilla often provides necessary comic relief. Inter-racial marriage is also introduced.

Mara’s safety and healing begin when her identity is revealed. She receives a new family, becomes Natha Winningham, and through Uncle Zane's housekeeper Zady, she's introduced to authentic Christianity.

Wishing on Dandelions picks up on Natha’s story when she’s 17, a young woman still struggling with the effects of childhood sexual abuse. Again, DeMuth knows her subject. Some things don't go away easily.

Although twisted motives drive some events in this book, most conflict occurs when familiar characters fail to respond to each other as they should. Natha regularly misunderstands others because her self-image is marred by her past. As does her Uncle Zane, Camilla, Charlie, and even Zady. DeMuth's story is excellent, but her strength is her ability to create vivid characters.

Inter-racial marriage becomes a major theme by the end of this book. Charlie has what Natha wants and needs—except that he’s Black. And because he's Black, he has only a limited education and no future.

I also appreciated God's role in these books. He lives in the hearts of characters who respond to Him and the content never becomes preachy. Mara’s—and then Natha’s—thoughts about God are so human—she’s not crazy about everything that happens in His world. Nevertheless, she finally meets Him under the pecan tree before the close of the first book. We learn in the second, however, that she continues to keep Him at a distance. Deep healing doesn't begin until she’s willing to go into the dark places and face her fear. Then, and only then, is she free to experience the love of God and of other people. By the conclusion of this book, true healing has begun. But only begun; DeMuth is realistic.

I reviewed these books on one of my earlier blogs, Sunny Pathway. However, in light of tomorrow’s poem and Thursday’s essay, they fit a theme of sorts for the week. Almost too neatly.

Stories have power to touch hearts, and I must admit that while I'm not aware that these stories changed my opinion, they perhaps solidified some things. One is about childhood abuse, the other is about dealing with the past. Both offer gut-wrenching, delightful, and realistic insight into the depth of the human experience.

I have not received compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned or pictured. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255; "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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