Table in the Clearing, set primarily in a New England prison, contributes to the public discussion of criminal justice not only by humanizing those we are locking up but by showing prisoners doing exactly the courageous inner work that could transform a divided nation. That work is facing the truth of the harm we have done to others and the pain of the harm done to ourselves. These are agonizing realities to confront. Most of us turn our gaze away from them. The prisoners do not.
The book explores not only the prisoners kept behind real bars and real barbed wire, but also the unwanted parts of our own personalities we keep locked up. We hide these parts from others. From ourselves. In a deeply intimate way, the author reveals the locked up inner part of herself she calls “the Stone Child” and how through years of personal work, much of it with inmates, the Stone Child softened and came to life.
The title of the book comes from an annual practice she brought to the prisoners. On Thanksgiving the inmates and author, through the power of imagining, host a feast for the soul at a Table in a Clearing. At this Table each prisoner’s inner exiles, the community’s exiled peoples, and outcast ancestors can at last be welcomed home with compassion and acceptance. Millions end up feasting at this Table. They give each other the nourishment they need for metamorphosis.
The miraculous tales of transformation that unfold here invite readers to take their own seats at the Table
Gena speaks of a prisoner who appears in Table in the Clearing, her forthcoming book.