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At the First Baptist Church of Maeby Arkansas the sins of the child belonged to the parents until the child turned thirteen Sarah Jones was only eight years old in the summer of 1964 but with her mother Esther Mae on eight prayer lists and flipping around town with the generally mistrusted civil rights organizers Sarah believed it was time to get baptized and take responsibility for her own sins That would mean sitting on the mourner’s bench come revival waiting for her sign and then testifying in front of the whole church But first Sarah would need to navigate. Children that talk out of turn irk me so initially it was difficult for me to get into Mourner s Bench Told from the point of view of 8 year old Sarah Jones it s the story of the civil rights movements arrival in small town Maeby Arkansas At the center of the movement is Sarah s mother Esther with whom Sarah is on a first name basis Like I said children that talk out of turn and don t know their place aggravate meSarah is an old woman in an 8 year old s body At a time when she should be outside playing and living carefree she s concerned with getting off of the mourner s bench at revival Mind you she put herself there but she felt it was time given who her mother was For those not familiar with the mourner s bench it s where people who ve not yet been baptized but feel they re close to getting a sign that it s their time sit during church or revival In some churches it s believed that parents are responsible for their children s sins until they turn 13 Esther s big city ways keep her on church prayer lists all around Maeby Figuring Esther has enough sins to carry Sarah is determined to get her religion so she can become responsible for her own sins Left behind by Esther when she went off to Chicago Sarah lives with her grandmother Muhdea and great grandmother Granny along with a host of young cousins left behind by their parents to be raised by their older relatives Her close relationship with Granny is a big factor in Sarah s life Her disrespect of her mother is in part due to her relationship with Muhdea While neither Muhdea or Granny cottons to Esther s idea of integrating the local schools and using Sarah to do so it s their dismissal of Esther s opinions that lead Sarah to think she can speak to her mother any kind of wayThere are enough plot twists and revelations to keep the book interesting but there was also enough to call the story line into uestion I had a hard time believing that adults would allow two 8 years to go house to house signing up black potential voters in 1960s Arkansas especially when the threat of the local authority loomed so heavily over them Having had grandmothers from the South I also found it hard to believe that either of my grandmothers would have tolerated any sass that way Muhdea and Granny did and they certainly wouldn t have encouraged me to go against my mother so blatantly At almost 400 pages Mourner s Bench is a decent read but it takes far too long to get to the meat of the story That being said it s a decent debut novel from Faye and I d definitely give her work another try in the future

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Mourner's Bench

To keep the peace and Reverend Jefferson called the SNCC organizers “the evil among us” But her mother along with local civil rights activist Carrie Dilworth the SNCC organizers Daisy Bates attorney John Walker and indeed most of the country seemed determined to push Maeby toward integration With characters as vibrant and evocative as their setting Mourner’s Bench is the story of a young girl coming to terms with religion racism and feminism while also navigating the terrain of early adolescence and trying to settle into her place in her family and communi. Wise beyond her years strong minded Sarah must come to terms with growing up in a household of independent woman in her rural Arkansas black community including a grandmother and great grandmother who aren t speaking to each other and a often absent mother bucking church and family as a leader in the struggle to usher in a new era of euality Set in the turbulent 60s and strongly evocative of To Kill a Mockingbird Mourner s Bench is a textured and nuanced look at often unexplored angles of the civil rights movement But than that it s a heart warming story that will have you wanting to give Sarah a great big hug

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The growing tensions of small town Arkansas in the 1960s Both smarter and serious than her years a “fifty year old mind in an eight year old body” according to Esther Sarah was torn between the traditions religion and work ethic of her community and the progressive civil rights and feminist politics of her mother who had recently returned from art school in Chicago When organizers from the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee SNCC came to town just as the revival was beginning Sarah couldn’t help but be caught up in the turmoil Most folks just wanted. I won this book on GoodreadsThis is a very interesting book I highly recommend this book to everyone Take the time to read it you won t be sorry I received an advance readers copy before the book was released The story is set in the south and the author moves effortlessly through the story drawing you in and making you feel like you are there This is a book I will read many times It is the kind of story that stays with you long after the last page is read

10 thoughts on “Mourner's Bench

  1. says:

    Mourner’s Bench a novel by Sanderia Faye is an amazing heartfelt story about Sarah a young girl growing up in a small rural town in Arkansas The story is focused on her journey to religious salvation during the highly turbulent times of the civil rights movement Sanderia Faye does an awesome job providing insight into the mind of this young girl and capturing the essence of her inner struggles with family dynamics and her rela

  2. says:

    Children that talk out of turn irk me so initially it was difficult for me to get into Mourner's Bench Told from t

  3. says:

    An important story well told Mourners Bench takes readers inside the early days of the civil rights movement by showing how residents of a small Arkansas town respond in the wake of mandated school integration and the marches led by Martin Luther King Jr The details of life in that town are rendered vividly and provide a rich backdrop for the action of the novel the return of Esther who intends to take up wher

  4. says:

    I won this book on GoodreadsThis is a very interesting book I highly recommend this book to everyone Take the t

  5. says:

    A phenomenal debut novel that seamlessly blends research with narrative I learned so much about the Civil Rights movement from this book but the narrative was so compelling it never felt didactic I also had the privilege of hearing the author give a reading from the book and she is a spellbinding reader and speaker Highly recommend

  6. says:

    If one thinks about the Civil Rights Movement what imagesthoughts come to mind? Mourner's Bench is a work of historical fiction that presents

  7. says:

    This is the author's first book One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was that a friend of mine was reading it with a local book club The other reason I wanted to read this book was that the author is a local writer There was a lot of detail within this read I thought the author did a good job portraying

  8. says:

    Wise beyond her years strong minded Sarah must come to terms with growing up in a household of independent woman in her rural Arkansas black community including a grandmother and great grandmother who aren't speaking to each other a

  9. says:

    This book is a uick summer read but not much The story was entertaining enough and I liked the way the narration alternated each chapter between Wim and Leandra I liked Leandra's 'southern mindset' and speech patterns and found myself talking

  10. says:

    It took me a while to get into this book but it was well worth the effort for me This story brings an unusual perspective for me to the civil rights movement in the 1960s Focusing on a 12 year old black girl growing up in rural Arkansas raised by her grandmother and great grandmother the story shows the resistance to civil rights activists even when they come out of the community the power of religion and its way to control and