After the Tree book project

The Mending Book Overview

The Mending

KEY WORDS/IDEAS in The Mending: Marriage, family, bondage, race, inner freedom, spiritual and emotional healing, love, romance, divorce, legacies, forgiveness, salvation

MANUSCRIPT OVERVIEW: A woman who comes from a broken home and a fractured legacy is haunted by the ghosts of her ancestors’ past and her own romantic fantasies. In her 20s, she becomes obsessed with the 1904 Mississippi lynching of her great grandfather. Yet, try as she might, she cannot resurrect him nor find any measure of peace in her attempts. Only when she shifts her focus from that hanging man on a tree to another, the one who hung for her on the cross, does she begin to discover the sense of peace, love, understanding, and belonging for which she so yearns. This process is reminiscent of her earlier journey, when she left her walk with Christ to pursue romantic desires, trying yet failing to create and sustain the perfect romance, only to realize, decades later, that no boy or man could ever fulfill her unrealistic ideals.

OBJECTIVE: Approximately 200 pages filled with language rendered in a variety of forms (essay, prose poems, letters), inspired by Jean Toomer’s Cane and Lucille Clifton’s A Good Woman.

The Mending aims to enlighten, inspire and encourage us to go within to discover the source of our pain; to honor and be curious about our ancestors while putting them in their proper place; to seek a relationship with God and to extract meaning out of the seemingly disparate threads of our lives.


I.       THE TREE: We see the narrator character struggling to piece together the story of her ancestry, broken by racial violence—a lynching of the father/husband. What does it mean to die swinging from a tree? What does this do to a family? A memory? The black man’s neck—choked and broken. What does the neck symbolize, what does it hold? What is lost here? Obsessed with these questions, the narrator begins to choke on them, lynching, in a way, her own future by an inability to get beyond the past.

II.    YOKED: The yoke that history places on romantic unions, for better or worse. While Avis and Houston stay together through it all, the younger couples harbor a brokenness inside them and allow it to drive their choices, unfortunate choices that lead to marital and psychological fracture.

III. THE CROSS: Remarriage happens, yet the narrator comes to realize that neither romance nor marriage nor family provide the antidote to internal pain, emptiness, yearning. This section explores that which yields healing, promotes wholeness, allows for err, and takes us inside the beauty of human weakness and loneliness.



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