Sustenance: A Novel-in-Progress

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Williams, Victoria
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School of Letters Thesis 2011 , School of Letters, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee , University of the South , MFA Thesis, Sewanee School of Letters , Brokenness , Redemption , Family , Home , Religion , The South
Sustenance explores the world of brokenness in its characters and their progress toward a redefined wholeness. The narrative moves between two characters: Hannah, a 13-year old trying to make sense of her family's new dynamic after an episode of domestic violence and her father's subsequent abandonment of the family; and Joe, a gifted Kentucky architect who loses his young family in car crash just as he has gained national attention in his field and the promise of a brilliant career lies ahead of him. Hannah's world moves in and out of Holiday, located in Tom's Creek, Alabama. It's the home place of four generations of her mother Mercy's family. Hannah's relationship with Mercy, an attentive mother and artist, deepens as Mercy struggles to understand her husband's leaving. Her mental health begins to deteriorate and its decline is exacerbated by the rhetoric preached by Havis and Clara Keeble, the pastor and pastor's wife of Higher Power Pentecostal Church, where she flees for spiritual guidance, emotional solace and help with the bills associated with the ancestral home at Holiday. The Keebles have their sights on Holiday as a place to relocate their growing congregation, which meets in a building conjoined to a rural gas station. Clara Keeble, rigidly religious, convinces Mercy she is largely responsible for her husband's abandoning the family due to her absorption with her own self-focused, artistic pursuits. Clara moves into Holiday to watch over Hannah and her incorrigible younger sister, Jolie, after Mercy's mental health deteriorates to the point where she must be hospitalized for a brief stint. After Mercy returns home, Clara shuns and works to stifle Mercy's creativity, clearing the house of any signs of artistic endeavor, and takes up a personal campaign to move Mercy, Hannah and Jolie towards her own personal view of more godly living. As the strictures of Clara religion starts to put a chokehold on any of the family's remaining identity, freedom or happiness, Jolie, Hannah's strong-willed younger sister works as a counterpoint to crack open and reveal Clara and Havis' self-serving natures. After the funeral of his wife and daughter, Joe leaves Kentucky for Atlanta, the only place he can remember any previous happiness. After a bout of drinking to stifle the pain of his loss and unable to conceive of place to go to find solace or to receive welcome, local police find him sleeping off his drunkenness and sorrow in a vehicle in his in-law's neighborhood. He is escorted to a local Catholic food bank and homeless shelter. Here, he finds comfort in serving others, the companionship of a very large dog named Solomon, and healing in working the fields of the local Cistercian monastery. Feeling called to serve the church, Joe enrolls in a seminary in Atlanta and is ordained as a Presbyterian minister. His ministry focuses on serving the local immigrant Latino population who have sacrificially left families behind in search of affording them better opportunities and life in Georgia. As he helps them deal with their own separation and loss, Joe finds himself healing. A memory of soul's repose while fevered with the death of his wife and child, passing through the town of Tom's Creek has stayed with him since his leaving Kentucky. When the opportunity to escort Horacio, a newly arrived immigrant from Oaxaca, Mexico with his family in Tom's Creek, Alabama arises, he jumps at the opportunity to discover what may be there waiting for him. Shortly after his arrival, his life and the lives of Hannah, Mercy and Jolie intersect.