Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mary DeMuth's Watching the Tree Limbs~Reviewed

Watching the Tree Limbs
By Mary E. DeMuth
Publisher: Navpress Publishing Group
ISBN: 1576839265

There are secrets in the peculiar town of Burl, Texas and one of its biggest is Mara. In Mary E. DeMuth’s poignant novel, Watching the Tree Limbs, nine-year-old Mara longs to belong to someone, but not to the bully down the street who calls her beautiful and says she is his. Down the sweltering Burl sidewalks, across racially segregated lines, and even beside her underneath the tree limbs, Mara takes readers on a heart-rending journey that will both haunt and inspire for days after closing the book and laying it on the night-stand.

DeMuth’s story is about breaking the silence of abuse and points toward grace and healing. Readers will be saddened by the amount of torment a broken and deprived soul can actually endure, but DeMuth promises hope; and that is the glory of Mara’s story. While the book is not autobiographical, the author’s true life experience with childhood abuse surely allowed her to delve deeply into Mara’s mind, letting readers know how it feels to be used and abandoned in a way that is unspeakable. But DeMuth lifts the reader back up with the promise of freedom Mara is destined for, if she will break her silence and let the true One love her.

The freedom Mara seeks from her silence is skillfully paralleled throughout the novel by various threads of the same theme. Through vivid images of the segregated southern town to characters who still feel the sting of racial division, enslavement to social injustice mirrors Mara’s yoke of abuse.

If there is one hang up about the book, and it is very minor to the overall beauty of the story, some readers could grow weary of repeated phrases seemingly meant to portray the commonality and down-to-earth personalities of characters. On the other hand, the predictive nature of the phrasing might instead be endearing to some who will see it as true to the setting.

This book will not only entertain, but will quietly compel readers to reach out to others who could be in pain, or more profoundly – reach more deeply into themselves.

Reviewed by Tina Gray

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