When a woman breaks all the rules, she is often punished. In the case of Marie Girard, whose transgressions include prostitution, unwed motherhood, divorce and setting fire to her home, punishment includes ex-communication from the Catholic Church, incarceration in mental institutions and electroshock therapy.
In this novel in poems, author Terry Wolverton suggests that the social institutions--the family, the Church, the medical establishment--that were supposed to protect Marie instead failed her. She contrasts the society into which Marie was born--early-Twentieth Century Detroit--with the culture of the Wendat Indians who'd lived in the same region hundreds of years earlier; the Wendat believed that madness was the result of "unfulfilled desires."
In seventy-three vivid and lyrical poems, Embers contends that women's "bad" behavior may in fact be justifiable resistance against systems that exploit and endanger women.