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Jewel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – January 19, 1999
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Deliver Her: A Novel
The mother of a grieving teenager makes a decision that may shatter their family forever. Learn More
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When the child is finally born, it seems that Cathedral's prediction was empty: the baby appears normal in every way. As the months go by, however, Jewel becomes increasingly afraid that something is wrong with little Brenda Kay--she doesn't cry, she doesn't roll over, she's hardly ever awake. Eventually husband and wife take the baby to the doctor and are informed that she is a "Mongolian Idiot," not expected to live past the age of 2. Jewel angrily rebuffs the doctor's suggestion that they institutionalize Brenda Kay. Instead the Hilburns shoulder the burdens--and discover the unexpected joys--of living with a Down's syndrome child.
Bret Lott has written a novel that spans decades, follows the lives of several characters, and cuts back and forth between Mississippi and California. Given these challenges, a lesser writer might lose focus. Lott, however, has wisely chosen to keep his eye trained on Jewel--a narrator who is smart, perceptive, and above all, honest. He has also bucked the trend toward political correctness by allowing his characters to think, feel, and talk the way white Mississippians of that era would have. ("Mongolian Idiot," "nigger," "cracker," and "buck" are just a few of the epithets sprinkled throughout the text.) The language may be discomforting to some readers. Few will deny, however, that Bret Lott has crafted a clan that is all heart in this bittersweet paean to the enduring strength of familial love. --Margaret Prior
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The novel begins in 1940's Mississippi as Jewel discovers that she is pregnant with "one last child." Her husband Leston reacts to the news with a gentle smile and affection, although her five children don't know quite what to make of it. Her oldest child James is almost old enough to enlist in the military, and her youngest, Annie, still depends on the comfort of a tattered blanket. Jewel worries about her children and their impending displacement by the needs of a new baby, but she cannot foresee how much the weight will be. Cathedral, a black woman who lives "out back" with her family and who has become a sort of friend (as much as a white woman and a black woman could in 1940's Mississippi), has an inkling. She prophesies that the coming baby will be Jewel's "hardship in life." When Jewel and Leston face the heartbreak that their beautiful Brenda Kay is not normal, Jewel tailors her entire life towards ensuring that her Down's Syndrome child is given nothing but the best. Through financial and domestic hardship, Jewel maintains devotion to her "baby girl" as the world around them changes over the decades.
Lott has created a compelling narrative voice in Jewel, a character whose honest, steadfast beliefs take her and her family through difficult times.Read more ›
We know today that children born with Down Syndrome are educable, have many very special gifts and talents, and can make a way for themselves in this world. And advances in medical technology and treatment have lengthened the life span for people with Down Syndrome to the 50s and 60s.
This book elegantly depicts the relationship between Jewel and her daughter. I identified with her in so many ways, including the intense love I have for my 5-year-old with Down Syndrome and the pride I feel in his every accomplishment. This is an incredible view into the challenges a family can face when presented with a child with a disability, not just Down Syndrome. And Lott's accurate depiction of 'the way it was' demonstrates how far we have come, and how far we still need to go, to accept people with mental retardation in our society.
Some reviewers have given this book low marks because it was depressing. Certainly, parts were. But there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who have an immediate family member with Down Syndrome, and who I'm sure can relate to many of the emotions Jewel displays and the love she has for her daughter.
Jewel Hilburn is a good wife, bringing forth five strong, healthy children and making a comfortable home for her family. Although late in life, Jewel finds herself pregnant again -- a sixth child, the baby of the family, the apple of her eye. But five months after little Brenda Kay is born, Jewel notices something dreadfully different from her other children. God has blessed the Hilburn family with a special child, a Down's Syndrome baby, and one who will prove she is both the burden and joy of all their lives. The story spans an entire lifetime, beginning with flashbacks of Jewel's childhood and ending with Jewel in her 80s. For readers who enjoy epics and characters that grow up before you, Jewel, at least in that respect, will provide.
I am clearly stumped as to the drawback of this book (for me). Pages did not turn quickly, I was never excited to pick it up and return to the world of Jewel and her family. I will say the last few chapters of this book did evoke some emotion, but other than that, Jewel fell flat. There is an audience for this book; however, be aware that the story does not move quickly, paragraphs are overly descriptive, and there is not enough dialogue to push things along. If you are in a reading slump, bypass Jewel for something more exciting.
However, as a main character, I found Jewel extremely annoying. It seemed like she had children to satisfy her own ego, not to give out unconditional love. I thought she was very selfish. It was terrible the way she abandoned her other five kids. Bret Lott makes it seem like she had no other choice, that taking care of Brenda Kay was so hard that giving up the five others was inevitable. I couldn't get the warm fuzzies about Brenda Kay and jewel's mother/child relationship because I don't think Jewel WAS a good mother. Controlling and demanding, yes. Caring, no.
Also, this book was so heavy, weighed down with long descriptive phrases, renderings that made no sense, Jewel repeating herself again and again. There was not enough dialogue, and the action (or lack thereof) was insipid and SLOW. The first thing we learned in fiction writing in college is "SHOW, DON'T TELL." I ate up the few action scenes, as well as the family's backgrounds, like a greedy crack addict, dying for something out of Jewel's head.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is truly the most touching story and beautifully written book I've ever read. It moved me in a way that no other book ever has.Published 9 months ago by Wayne F. Lewis
I couldn't put this book down. It's an intimate look at this woman's life.Published 14 months ago by Emily Needham
Yes I would recommend it to others. It takes in a life to the end. The right or wrong decision that are made.. it gives more understanding of families with retarded children. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Kindle Customer