The Painted Table by Suzanne Field follows three generations of a Norwegian family from Minnesota. The main object of the story is a handcrafted table Saffee’s great-grandfather made in Norway in the 1800s.
The table becomes a hated object to Joann, Saffee’s mother. The table holds traumatic childhood memories. As the reader follows Joann’s story, the table becomes a hulking mass of ugliness. Joann continuously paints the table hoping to destroy or change or deal with the demons of her past that cling with her to the present. As Saffee grows up with her parents Joann and Nels, she learns to despise the Norway table as well. Seeing how it torments her mother, Joann, who deals with a type of personality disorder passed on from her mother.
Suzanne Field paints a painful history of this family. But like our reality, pain takes a long lifetime, sometimes over generations to heal wounds and brokenness. When Saffee gets married, her husband Jack finds the table fascinating and encourages Saffee to strip the table of its layers of paint—thus working out her dilemma and pain the table resembles.
As Saffee does this, she finds family chronicles in Norwegian, which she has translated. Saffee finds the table has a redeeming past. The table built in Norway was a table of family joy and prayer in her great-grandfathers day.
The journey from trauma to redemption is a long one. But is worth the work it takes for healing.