The Mending Time is an intergenerational story that traces two black families on the South Side of Chicago. The book takes an intricate look at the effects of historic discrimination, struggle, migration and urban life on these African descended people. Its nugget culminates inside the story, imagination and resilience of the child whose birth joins these two families. The novel unfolds in four parts, according to West African ritual as described by Malidoma Some’. It offers readers a Sankofa experience in which to change and heal these cycles.
A Review of The Mending Time
The Mending Time, the wonderful debut novel from Meta Commerse, is fundamentally about the healing process. Like any good novel, it is centered on questions: How does healing happen, collectively and individually, physically and spiritually? Commerse recognizes that the most important questions cannot ever by fully answered. But part of the answer, one finds, is that we are healed when we realize that we are in this together, that our wounds bind us more than isolate us. Our individual struggles are not separate from the collective. Set over three generations on Chicago’s south side, the novel takes on the difficult subject of the abuse of women and children. Skillfully linking the abuse within the community to the broader abuse that the community as a whole faces, Commerse recognizes that the wounded men who often harm the women in their lives do so in part because of the failure of their society to give black men a voice. And she celebrates the strength of women who realize that, when they start talking about it, they are connected by their pain. The novel is structured, quite intentionally, in the four-fold pattern of an African healing ritual. This speaks to the importance of inter-generational participation in the healing process. A whole world is required to heal a single child; that is, the individual requires a community as well as the ancestors to become whole. The central character, Bea, a child who has faced horrible abuse, finds healing by connecting to older generations and to the healing traditions of her ancestors. Commerse is a writer who works to get to the marrow of issues and to stay there until the healing is done, and her writing brings with it a tremendous amount of depth and skill. Although she has relocated to Asheville, NC, she is from Chicago, and the work evokes a south side of days gone by, before communities were disrupted by the violence and mass-incarceration of the 80’s and the gentrification of today. This is not to say that segregated Chicago is idealized. This is a hard life, and its struggles come through. Healing, for a wounded little girl or a wounded people or a wounded species, also happens through storytelling. This is part of the power of a good novel, and part of the power of those in The Mending Time who find their voice. The one thing we fear –re-living our pain by telling the story — is that which heals us. And while the book begins by burying the bloody shirt of the man who saves a beaten woman, it concludes when the child is ritually freed to tell her story, no longer building psychological “walls” around her self.
Theodore Richards is a poet, writer and religious philosopher. He is the founder and executive director of The Chicago Wisdom Project and is the author of the poetry collection, Handprints on the Womb. Find out more at http://chicagowisdomproject.org.
Good Reads Comments
In The Mending Time, Meta Commerse leads the reader on a vivid trip back in time to the 1960s, to an often confusing world seen throught the eyes of an African American girl. Commerse beautifully handles the emotional and spiritual process of the characters surviving and healing from trauma, as individuals and as a community of women.
Nkonsonkonson – “Chain Link”
unity and human relations
“I have read your novel. I would say reading The Mending Time was a mystical experience that addresses a timely and difficult topic in a powerful way. It is rich, the characters real, and the novel thought provoking.”
Pastor Kevin Downer