Elevate Difference

Sins of the Mother

Will we eventually be accountable for the decisions we made in the past? This is essentially the idea that Murray explores throughout her book Sins of the Mother. Through the use of multiple first-person narratives, Murray follows the actions and reactions of her characters after the young daughter of her protagonist and converted sinner, Jasmine Bush, is kidnapped.

I only realised half-way through reading the book that Sins of the Mother is the fifth instalment by Murray to follow Jasmine Larson Bush. Though I consider it a stand-alone book, and have not read any of her previous work, many of the references to Jasmine’s “sin-filled” past, without much follow-up substantiating these references, led me to believe that there were earlier instalments.

Sins of the Mother explores the struggle of faith that Jasmine Larson Bush and her family encounter upon the abduction of her young daughter. Primarily a Christian book, Murray’s characters have their faith, their relationship with God and with each other, put to the test as they search relentlessly and almost hopelessly for Jacqueline. As this book is a continuation of Jasmine’s life, it is predominantly a story of her spiritual development.

I found this book gripping, and quite a page-turner in its suspense, and the strength of the characters born out of their faith, quite admirable. However, I found a lot more aspects of the book frustrating and lacking. One of the most notable aspects of this book is its reference to an African-American, Christian community in New York City. Jasmine is the wife of the pastor of one of the largest churches, and because of this status has the respect and awe of her community. It was frustrating that there were multiple references to money, opulent lifestyles and spending habits, and importance put on status in the community as opposed to character development. Jasmine came off as a fickle woman, who thrived in her role as the wife of an important pastor and the mother of his children. Jasmine’s success was that she was the wife of someone important. Her character was shallow and after the abduction of her daughter, the stereotype of the neurotic damsel in distress who depends on the comfort and strength of men to console her.

Murray writes this book from several character perspectives, allowing for the “development” of several characters whose lives are intertwined and immediately impacted by Jacqueline’s abduction. However, the characters weren’t very complex, their reactions to their circumstances predictable and their roles stereotypical, and I found the multiple first-person narratives made the story drag on for much longer than it needed to. The emphasis on a glitz and glamour lifestyle as adding value to one’s life, particularly for up and coming Christians, limited character development, and the incessant references to sex, money and the status that comes with having it, is the biggest shortcoming of this book. Women in this book are mothers, partners and wives. Other than the character Alexis, who tries to exert her autonomy, but to little avail, women are as strong as the men who support them, and their identities thusly defined.

Written by: Toni Francis, October 1st 2010