(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In love with her hometown boyfriend, Eric Bradshaw, twenty-one-year-old Spelman College senior Cecelia (CeCe) Williams is devastated when he rejects her to marry another woman, Yolanda, despite CeCe’s having told him she is pregnant with his child. Five years later, CeCe is working as an accountant in Atlanta, Georgia, living with her son, David, and former Spelman dorm adviser, sixty-five-year-old Gertrude (B. B.) Brinson, who is CeCe’s closest friend and spiritual mentor. CeCe also sells real estate to earn extra income. Unsure of most men’s intentions, she rarely dates.

When CeCe is summoned to court regarding more than forty unpaid parking tickets, Judge Stuart Solomon, who believes in social accountability, assigns her 150 hours of community service at Genesis House, a Christian-oriented service, in downtown Atlanta. Canceling real estate tours on a Saturday afternoon, CeCe is annoyed when the Genesis House director does not show up for their appointment to discuss how she will complete her hours. CeCe arrives at their rescheduled meeting, expecting to dislike the director. Thirty-three-year-old Nathaniel (Nate) Richardson regrets having missed CeCe the previous Saturday; their meeting had coincided with his ex-wife Naomi’s wedding, which had distressed him. He feels like a failure because Naomi left him and their marriage.

Nate apologizes to CeCe and suggests she count eight hours of her service for Saturday. He tells her that Judge Solomon is his friend and admires the social work done at Genesis House. Nate explains the purpose of Genesis House, revealing that a couple, Marvin and Shay Taylor, grief-stricken when their young son was killed several years earlier, established the center to assist people living in Atlanta’s inner-city Robinwood community. Nate describes the needs of those residents, suggesting that CeCe could plan teen pregnancy or unemployment programs. She offers to help people learn job-hunting skills.

At home, CeCe contemplates how she will manage her time and complete her remaining 142 hours of community service. Sorting through her mail, CeCe impulsively rips up a letter from David’s...

(The entire section is 884 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Benson, Angela. Telling the Tale: The African-American Fiction Writer’s Guide. New York: Berkley Books, 2000. Writing at about the same time she created Awakening Mercy, Benson discusses how she became a writer and appropriated aspects of her life for her stories.

Black Issues Book Review 2, no. 1 (January/February, 2001): 18. Reviews Awakening Mercy and other novels.

Duncan, Melanie C. Review of Awakening Mercy. Library Journal 125, no. 14 (September 1, 2000): 184. Identifies the novel as a “breakthrough Christian romance featuring African American characters and universal themes. . . .”

Frederick, Marla F. Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Useful for understanding CeCe’s attitudes, this study examines how spirituality impacts southern African American women’s reactions to problems. Describes varying religious views of gender and sexuality.

Nelson, Timothy J. Every Time I Feel the Spirit: Religious Experience and Ritual in an African American Church. New York: New York University Press, 2005. Sociological study exploring how southerners similar to Benson’s characters develop individual and communal relations with God to sustain and comfort them in their daily lives.