SugarHouse Mama

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

I picked this book for many reasons: it's on the 'best books' list of a few websites I browse when I'm looking for some literary inspiration, it's about family relationships, healing and forgiveness, the title alludes to sewing, AND it has a beautiful cover. It's not true, you know, you can - and often should - judge books by their covers.

Anyway, it's a fast read. I'm talking a 1-day read here, people. I had a really hard time putting it down, and my Saturday housework suffered.

The basic story is about a family, long grown, that has a secret. During a family reunion the secret comes out and all of a sudden family members have to accept, forgive, and love each other in spite of the secret. That is a trite summary, I know.

There are several quotes the author uses before the book begins to set the tone. I loved one, in particular:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I'll meet you there.
- Rumi

Exploring forgiveness is always an interesting topic for me. I suppose because it's never very simple. Just as with everything else in life, there are multiple stops along the way - various destinations you can reach. All too often I think we stop at acceptance. It happened. There's nothing you can do. Move on. The thing is, if you stop there, you risk losing the rest of the journey. There is so much more beyond acceptance.

The narrator, a self-proclaimed obsessive domestic, admits she loves certain home-making tasks. Among them is mending:

As for mending, I think it's good to take the time to fix something rather than
throw it away. It's an antidote to wastefulness and to the need for
immediate gratification. You get to see a whole process through, beginning
to end, nothing abstract about it. You'll always notice the fabric scar,
of course, but there's an art to mending: If you're careful, the repair
can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its
And of course, that is the point of forgiveness. There might be a scar, but if you see the process through to the end, that scar becomes a testimony to the value of the relationship.

In my mind, true forgiveness is atonement. And that's rare indeed. I think it takes a lot of work and many years to reach a point where you don't even see the scar anymore. And of course, it takes a power that we just don't possess.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and I've already recommended it to others, so I guess that's another testament.

And I hear Berg's Open House is even better - consider it added to my "on hold list".

No comments: