By Mary E. DeMuth
PO Box 35002
Colorado Springs, CO 80935
Watching the Tree Limbs is different from any other Christian fiction that I have read in several ways. First, it tackles the very "heavy" topics of child rape and racism. It is also very subtle in its approach to delivering the message that we are forgiven of our sins through our beliefs in Jesus and God. It does not beat us over the head with the knowledge of our sinfulness but gently draws us in and reminds us that God is there through ALL of our trials and tribulations, especially when you are 9 years old and the victim of rape.
Mara doesn't have a mother or a father but lives with her aunt, an eccentric woman who treats Mara like she is more of a bother than a niece. While sitting on the curb one day, 9-year-old Mara is approached by General, an older neighborhood boy who just happens to also be the preacher's son. He asks her if she wants to go to the park to play. Mara's first instinct is to stay where she is, but his rather forceful nature causes her to agree to go with him. He rapes her in the trees at the park and threatens to kill her and her aunt if she tells anyone. She endures this eight more times but never tells anyone. When her aunt dies suddenly, Mara believes it is because she has forgotten to meet General at the park one afternoon.
She is now an orphan and is taken to the "other" side of town to live with an older gentleman, Mr. Winningham, in a rundown mansion. This "other" side of town is where the black people live, and life changes dramatically for Mara. She is the only white person in her new school, but she adapts very well with help from Mr. Winningham's black maid, Zady. Mara had always been told that the "other" side of town is where the criminals live, but she soon learns that the color of a person's skin doesn't matter-it's what's on the inside that counts. Zady knows the details of Mara's past and of her mother and father, but secrets must be kept until Mara is old enough to understand the truth.
Mara has never gone to church before, but one day she asks Zady to take her to church with her family. Mara badly wants to know the truth of her past, and she learns bits and pieces during her first year with Mr. Winningham. But who is Mr. Winningham to her? Why do people at the church keep calling her "Sephie"? What does a memory of a green swing have to do with her past? Meanwhile, the biggest question that Mara has is about God ... can He love her even though she feels so dirty inside? Why did He let all of these terrible things happen to her? Will she ever have her own family to love and be loved by?
Watching the Tree Limbs tells this heart-wrenching story without graphic writing but with such tenderness that you cannot help but be immediately drawn into Mara's plight. You just want to reach through the pages and draw her in close and show her God's love so that He can take away her pain. I read this book in three nights staying up way past my bedtime to finish it. I just couldn't wait to see how everything got resolved. The ending was full of twists and turns but was satisfying and answered all of my questions. The best news is that there is a sequel to this book, and I am looking forward to reading more about Mara and what happens after she finds out the truth of her past.
Product review by Kris Price, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, June 2006