Books & Wine

Books & Wine

Mourner’s Bench


Sanderia Faye

Beginning Chapters
Change is inevitable, and the folk in Maeby, Arkansas, know it’s coming, but they don’t move until they have to. They wrestle with it, pray to God that it doesn’t happen, talk about it over Sunday dinners, reason it away like they do tornados, but it’s coming and it’s coming fast, so they had better get ready cause change waits for no woman or no town. Get on board. All God’s Children got to get on board.

Pairing: $22     Livermore, CA – Sauvignon Blanc
Tasting Notes:  Sauvignon Blanc was planted in Livermore Valley in the 1880s, and it has become a hallmark varietal for all of California. Refreshingly crisp and elegant, this Sauvignon Blanc is bursting with succulent aromas of Asian pear and rich gooseberry. The cool Monterey climate enhances the flavors of fresh green apple, ripe pear, bright Meyer lemon and creamy vanilla. A touch of oak adds to its delightful harmony and refined structure, culminating in a vibrant and lingering finish.

Middle Chapters
People fight against what they don’t understand. They wail at the invisible. Beg it to go back to from whence it came. We don’t want you here. They dishonor their vows, break the Ten Commandments, lose faith and forget to trust themselves and God. But before the dust settles, everything will be shook loose and toppled. And in the middle of this disarray is the naïve precocious eight-year-old narrator, Sarah White.

Pairing: $45     Amity, OR – Paciência Estate Pinot Noir
Tasting Notes: The Paciência Estate Pinot noir is a luscious red-purple in appearance. Upon first whiff, sweet candied red fruit notes resulting from whole cluster fermentation jump out of the glass. With some patience, the wine opens up with aromas of ripe sugarplums, warm cedar and nutmeg. The phenomenal acidity in this wine perfect balances the lush, pure fruit flavors, making this a wine that can be enjoyed now or cellared.

End Chapters
Peace be still. Calm in a raging sea. What can save the citizens of Maeby? They must look to the dust of their ancestors, and place their hopes on the shoulders of a child. The town looks as it did before, everything and everybody seems the same. But all who were involved know that the air is lighter, the scars replace where once there were wombs, the hymns carry a different tune and the civil rights songs blend in the distance. People who love each other find a way to patch up their lives like they would an old quilt.

Pairing: $49     Woodinville, WA – DeLille Cellars D2, Red Wine
Tasting Notes: DeLille Cellars D2, Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $49 This exceptional vintage demonstrates classical, expressive Merlot notes of floral spices, sweet herbs, pencil shavings, tobacco pouch and mixed berries. There are rich, generous flavors filling the mouth with black cherries, raspberries and kirsch liquor as well as cocoa powder and toasty oak notes. The palate continues with savory qualities tempered by an elegance that has come to define DeLille Cellars. Complete all this with a dramatic finish to experience a memorable and youthful D2.

Sit back, relax and discuss the book, or just think about what you have read.

Pairing: $51     Cognanc cedex – FRANCE – Hennessy Black
Tasting Notes:
A FRESH SMOOTHNESS: Hennessy Black is a stylish original cognac –on the nose, jasmine floral notes boldly make an immediate statement. Hints of citrus and honey follow, contributing a softer, warmer note. In the mouth, Hennessy Black keeps these unexpected flavors, also releasing the cleansing characteristics of white flowers and fresh grapes.

AN ALLURING CONTRAST: Smooth from the first aromas, yet intense throughout the tasting experience, Hennessy Black is an alluring, multi-faceted cognac. Carefully selected and subtly matured in old oak barrels, the Hennessy Black eaux-de-vie play across the palate, revealing surprising flavors: a remarkable duality between smoothness and intense freshness.

EXTREMELY VERSATILE: Delicate flavors are punctuated by fresh and vigorous notes, achieving a surprising finesse. Very easy to mix, thanks to its smooth, rounded character, Hennessy Black can also be enjoyed neat, or as the key ingredient in a variety of long drinks.


Beginning Chapter One – We’ve Got to Move

Indoor plumbing was the last significant change in Maeby, Arkansas, before my mama left town. For as long as I could remember, my family and other colored folks kept our pigs, chickens, cows and all other animals in our backyards, and a little further back, a ways from the gardens, sat the outhouses. The all-white city council threatened to take the animals away from us if we didn’t clean up our yards and do something about that horrific smell. We didn’t pay them no mind, talked about it after they drove off in their city cars. Reverend Jefferson may have brought it up in one of his sermons, but generally, we went on back to minding our business and so did they until the next time they felt up to performing their civic duties.

Then one day the city council members decided to make good on their promises. They bucked up and passed an ordinance that required us to remove all the farm animals outside of the city limits, and to get it done in no time flat. Just for the sake of it, they told us that we must tear the toilets out of the outhouses and replace them with flushable ones. All the grown folks were in a huff about it, especially over the toilets, but since I’d never seen or heard of one, I reserved my passion for when I would know what I was getting upset about.

I thought about the girl, Ruby Bridges, who Esther said was around my age. She was making plans to integrate the elementary school in New Orleans. I imagined her mama pressing the pleats in her dress over and over again but never able to get them to lie straight. And the boys and girls at Central High School who should be near graduating by now, but still wasn’t able to fit in like they did at the colored school.

Middle Chapter ElevenI Flunked It

Strapped with all of my feelings, I stood frozen in the doorway at the Hall, my feet rooted to the floor like a Kelly weed in the field. I’d heard so much about this place, I was both sacred and excited. If this was what Esther wanted from me, I wasn’t going to fight with her during revival. Maybe if I pretended to be interested, she’d leave me be till I got off the Mourner’s Bench. Reverend Jefferson said Hell was a bottomless pit, and the way he talked about the Hall I believed it ran a close second. Granny had told me to finish my chores and meet Esther down  at the Hall. Her look said not to ask if I’d be able to go uptown first, or why her and Muhdea were letting me go in the first place, or any other question that I might’ve had. “Yes, ma’am,” I said. I acted as if she’d given me all the details. I made a note in my head to write my questions about this day that was already starting out to be abnormal on my list later, in hopes I’d get the answers one day, ’cause Granny wasn’t in no mood to answer nothing.

Here I was after having walked down to the Hall all by myself with all them things running around in my mind and still trying to take in a picture in my head of the redone Hall. Malika and her family lived across the road in their new Jim Walter home. I glanced over my shoulder at her house looking lonesome since she wasn’t home. If she’d been there, I wouldn’t be standing here. She would’ve run across the street and pushed me through the doorway pointing out every detail, showing off she knew more about the Hall than I ever would. I wished Malika would hurry up and come back home from Chicago. I felt alone standing here all by myself.

End Chapter Twenty-One – Colored School Is Good Enough

Esther asked me if I still wanted to work for SNCC after hearing all of what Granny had to say. I hated what those men did to Granny, but most of all I was sad that she’d gotten scared and given I wasn’t afraid, Malika said she wasn’t either. On the first day, all six of us girls loaded up in Mrs. Carrie’s station wagon with Esther. Esther told us she was going to drop each of us off at our first home before she went to work, and she’d pick us up at the same house when she got off at four o’clock. Granny made a good case to keep me from going, but it fell on deaf ears. The SNCC office in Atlanta expected us to start work that day, and Esther wasn’t changing her mind about it. I watched Granny as she hummed “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” while she laid my clothes out on the bed for me. Granny hung my book satchel across my shoulder and readjusted the rubber bands on each one of my plaits as she uttered a list of dos and don’ts. “Be mindful, look both ways before y’all cross the road, keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary, don’t get in the car with nobody you don’t know, and if you see any white man following you, hide behind the bushes or lay down flat in the ditch.” I nodded and gave each one of her warnings a number on my fingers so that if anything she told me came up, I’d remember exactly what to do. I pranced out to the road like a little soldier. When I looked back and saw Granny still standing on the porch holding open the screen door, I turned around and marched right back up to her. She seemed surprised, as if she thought I’d changed my mind and decided not to.