Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl

A Novel

Book - 1999
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Fans of Cold Sassy Tree, Kaye Gibbons, and Fried Green Tomatoes will delight in this lyrical first novel set in a small Mississippi town in the late 1950s. Populated by wonderfully rich and original characters, and weaving themes of identity and the true meaning of family, the story revolves around twenty-eight-year old Even Grade, a black man who grew up an orphan, and Valuable Korner, a fifteen-year old white girl who is the daughter of the town whore and an unknown father. Each is seeking family, love, and commitment. Their paths cross through Joody Two Sun, a seer, who becomes Even Grade's lover. Enhanced by Melinda Haynes' exquisite prose, which captures the irony and beauty of life in the deep South, Mother of Pearl heralds the arrival of a powerful new voice in American fiction.
Publisher: New York : Hyperion, 1999.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780786864850
0786864850
Branch Call Number: HAYN
Characteristics: 447p. 24cm.

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brianreynolds Oct 29, 2011

Melinda Haynes' <i>Mother of Pearl</i>, moving like a sailing vessel, tacking to catch somewhat random winds, frequently grinding to a halt in the calms, nevertheless followed a true course to its climax. Stories guided by a tragic plot are not all that common, but this one for all its excesses and failings did arrive at its destination, following the wake of such works as <i>Romeo and Juliet</i>. The classic battle between Montagues and Capulets became the South's racial conflict of the 1950's; star-crossed lovers abound in this tale, but it is the demise of the book's heroine that brings peace to the feuding parties. It remains a great story, one told with enviable creativity in modern dress. Worth the read, in my opinion for that alone.

Other aspects of <i>Pearl</i>, however, compare less favourably with William Shakespeare. The music of various southern dialects became tedious and grated at times. Knowing that "aunt" was pronounced "ont" distracted more than it entertained. Dreams and symbols, spirits and landscapes seasoned the book well beyond my tolerance for spice. How many times can a reader happily be treated to a reading of pig entrails, for instance? Characters too often slid from the idiosyncratic to the caricatural. A matter of taste, I admit. Bottom line: this was a book that, in too many places, required my serious effort to keep it from transforming into a pillow.

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