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Mourner's Bench

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  25 reviews
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 res ...more
Paperback, 372 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by University of Arkansas Press
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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Dr. Cindy
Jun 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: must-read
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 relationship with God. Sarah is a young girl with an old soul and a ...more
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I won this book on Goodreads

This 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!
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!
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
If one thinks about the Civil Rights Movement, what images/thoughts come to mind? Mourner's Bench is a work of historical fiction that presents a real, unfiltered look at how the Movement affected the lives of African Americans in the rural South. 4 generations are at the center of this story. Sarah is 8 years old and her single goal is to be baptized in the summer of 1964. Her mother Esther is a SNCC volunteer and artist who is not in favor of Sarah being baptized. Muhdea, Sarah's grandmother a ...more
Linda Klager
Mar 15, 2018 rated it liked it
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 the characters, their life in the turbulent racial 60's, and what life entailed in rural Arkansas at that time. I have never heard of chairs where you sit in the front of the church ...more
Pamela Hutchins
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 equality. 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 ...more
Debra OConnell
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book is a quick summer read, but not much more. 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 like that in my mind! However, the conversations between characters were a little too scripted; language was just a little too witty and clever, not like natural conversation. Every conversation was a bit too perfect. Also, the love story was a l ...more
Wiebke Kuhn
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 hold back rural communities, and the intricate power connec ...more
Susan Watrous
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here is a look at desegregation from a grade schooler’s point of view

She lives in the country outside of Little Rock being raised by her maternal grandmother in a poor but supportive place. Her issues begin with wanting to be baptized to being one one of the children selected to march into a white school to make a difference

Her mom is off doing things...

The civil rights unrest comes to her rural town after we have been introduced to The characters, the issues, the methods.

The people involved ar
Alan Lampe
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
The story of Sarah getting her religion never really grabbed hold of me and pulled me into her world. A majority of the book focus' on integrating the white school in town and only at the end do we get back to Sarah and her religion theme. To me the ending was anti-climatic. It didn't affect me one way or the other. The book was well written and I have nothing about that, but it really didn't draw me into her world and keep me entertained. ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I write short reviews, because long reviews I usually skip over. The research is exceptional, the descriptive scenes at times way too long. The ending disjointed and hurried, but I still give it a 4 because you can picture the town, the people, the stores, the feelings.
Kim robinson
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is where the struggle was carried on

The historical story told through a young girls eyes, much like scout.
The writing had me sweetimg and swatting mosquitos right along with the charactets.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, book-club
Slow start but eventually turned out pretty good. I really struggled with the family dynamics at first.
Carol Bell
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I enjoyed the story and the writing. There were some slow spots but overall it was good and presented a different view of the civil rights movement that I was not familiar with.
Corbett Buchly
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Faye chose a terrific perspective, that of a young black girl, to tell this small-town version of the civil rights movement in Arkansas. The characters were certainly multi-dimensional and engaging.
Read In Colour
Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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 me.

Sarah is an old woman in an 8 year old's body. At a time when she should
Elizabeth Marro
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: binders
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 where the town's aging activists are getting ready to leave off.

The story is told by
Darin Bradley
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An intimate look at life in 1960s Arkansas through the eyes of a young protagonist precocious enough to recognize the social trends and injustices around her but also still naive about many of the details Faye communicates through secondary and tertiary characters and events. The sheer scope of the communities and families at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, and their conflicts within and around its issues, is boggling, and the strength of Sarah, her mother, her grandmother, and her great ...more
Kristine Hall
It's the early 1960s in Maeby, Arkansas, and eight-year-old Sarah Jones is wise beyond her years in assessing the worlds of race, religion, and family drama. There is so much to think about in this story, and one can't help but think about how far we've come in some areas and how little progress has been made in others. Full review on Hall Ways Blog ...more
Janet Roberts
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book. It is a unique look at the beginnings of the civil rights movement in a small town in Arkansas as seen through the eyes of four generations of African American women in one family. The narrator is an 8 year old girl and her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are in disagreement as to whether to stay out of trouble or engage in fighting for their civil rights. It is heart warming, well written and a moving read.
Lea Page
Apr 03, 2016 rated it liked it
An ambitious undertaking, to weave so many cross currents into one story, but that, in itself, mirrors how multi-layered the fight for civil rights was/is. The voice of the eight-year-old narrator was a stretch for me, but otherwise, I found the story compelling.
Guh, just guh! Sarah is such a believable and relatable narrator.

"Up till now, I'd believed them boys and girls wanted to attend the white school. It had never occurred to me their mamas and daddies made them go, the same as mine made me."

Michelle Wallace
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book. It has all the right ingredients. But it's just too much to slog through. ...more
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
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