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Mother of Pearl (Oprah's Book Club) Hardcover – June 2, 1999

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Hardcover, June 2, 1999
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 3 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 12
  • Series: Oprah's Book Club
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st ed edition (June 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786864850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786864850
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (266 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,484,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, June 1999: Twenty-eight-year-old Even Grade is a black man who was orphaned as a child; 15-year-old Valuable Korner is a white girl who might as well have been. Petal, Mississippi, circa 1956, seems an unlikely spot for these two to connect, but it soon becomes apparent in Mother of Pearl that a friendship across race lines is just one of many miracles waiting to happen in this small Southern town. Melinda Haynes's remarkable debut novel begins in a hot August, when young Val's lifelong friendship with Jackson McClain is starting to change into something more profound, and Even is falling crazy in love with Joody Two Sun, a mixed-race woman with amazing powers.

Woven in and around these two central love stories are myriad other characters, other tales. There is 16-year-old Joleb Green, for example, whose mother was incapacitated by a stroke when he was born, and who was raised by the black housekeeper, Grace. There is Even's friend Canaan, an older black man who spends his time reading Greek tragedy and writing his work "The Reality of the Negro"; Valuable's mother, Enid, the town whore; and Neva and Bea, a lesbian couple who have helped to raise the girl. Until this year, blacks and whites have occupied separate universes, for the most part; then Joleb Green suffers a terrible accident, and it is Joody Two Sun who saves his life and Grace who restores his soul. At the same time, a pregnant Val arrives on Joody and Even's doorstep, hungry for the understanding and acceptance she cannot find at home. Though at first Even is resistant, Val's humanity soon transcends her color in his mind:

Even chuckled and shook his head, happy for a reason he couldn't distinguish other than at that moment of Canaan's near-perfect cast, all seemed right with the world, as right as a thing can be what with a white girl camped out in the middle of the Quarter with no plans of leaving.
Gradually, without really intending it, Joleb, Val, Even, Joody, Grace, and Canaan form something that looks suspiciously like a family--a relationship that will soon be tested to the limit when Val's baby is born.

Melinda Haynes has taken on a Herculean task, crafting a multicharacter story that reaches across racial barriers to encompass an entire community. She doesn't shy away from the ugliness in life--bigotry of every stripe, mean-spiritedness, betrayal, thoughtless cruelty, and death--but what interests her is the potential of the human heart to find space within itself for the most unexpected people. With its strong, lyrical language and fully realized characters, Mother of Pearl is a fine novel and a terrific introduction to a new literary voice. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In prose both rugged and beautiful, Haynes plumbs the secrets of the South in her stunning debut novel. Set in Petal, Miss., across the Leaf River from Hattiesburg, the narrative opens in the summer of 1956, shortly after Even Grade, a 27-year-old black man, has met Joody Two Sun, a seer whos known as a witch, and not long after Valuable Korner, the 14-year-old daughter of the towns one loose woman, gets her Blessing of Blood, as Joody Two Sun calls it. Evenso named from the note his mother left when she abandoned him at a Memphis orphanageis a decent man, kindheartedly building a family of friends; while Valuable, the daughter of a dying Southern line, an orphan of sorts herself, is deeply in need of family. Valuable and Jackson McLain, the boy down the street, fall in love, and Haynes captures that phenomenon delicately and persuasively. In a heartbeat Valuable is pregnant, and as Jackson is forced to move away, Valuable turns to Joody and Even for support as she carries the baby she comes to think of as Pearl. Despite Evens help, Valuable, whose family hides secrets far darker than this pregnancy, seems doomed to pay for the sins of the past. Indeed, Hayness capacious novel is very much about the justice wrought by destiny, but it is also about finding family, people who nurture, forgive and care for each other; in the novels resolution, those most deserving of love are brought together. Haynes is fearless in portraying her characters flaws, their pettiness and racism, their erring thoughts, but shes also merciful, letting them grow and change during the course of the narrative. While perhaps too many of the characters take the stage, each with tragic accounts of their lives, Haynes nevertheless triumphs with a rare and memorable ensemble. This wise, luminous novel demonstrates her great giftsfor language, courageous storytelling and compassion. BOMC and QPB selections.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The story lines for each character seemed to go no where -- very slowly.
J. Anderson
The reader will sometimes get the feeling that the author is trying too hard making this story the story of the century, and I am not sure this book deserves it.
I had a very hard time reading this book; in fact, I put it down for a few years and then as a matter of pride picked it up and finished it only recently.
Deborah L. Woodstuff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen D. Coleman on December 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was a challenge to read. Haynes distinctive way of developing her characters and her long and expressive prose made me want to stop reading and move on to something that was more leisure in style. But I kept on reading. I found the book complex and thought provoking. Not only did I care about the characters but I wanted to know them and understand them in depth - to examine how many of their sides were firing (feelings, sensing, knowing, seeing, hearing and smelling - six sided women). I kept thinking of the dream of the pig and how it revealed itself to Canaan. Ripped down the middle with no insides - like Canaan racially split, a product of the time, and operating at a head level (one sideded). Most of his sides frozen and it was only when he met Grace did he begin to integrate - to make the longest trip in the world - the 18" from his head to his heart.
I finally understood as I kept reading and rereading trying desperately to follow the story and clearly understand each page that the real message for me was not to figure out what Haynes was trying to convey but to understand what the personal message was for me. Reading fiction should be a personal experience - my personal experience. There is not just one message here. Just as in my own personal life so many people, events, and things don't make sense. I often struggle to analyze and reanzlye . I become frustrated, angry and end up giving away my finite life energy to something outside of myself - something that I have no control over. There is a line from the Desiderta which says "no matter whether or not it is clear to you the Universe is unfolding as it should.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Nina on February 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Views were polarized between members. We had 2 members who rated it at less or equal to 2, and 5 members who rated it at 9+. Concensus of those who rated it 9+ was that there was definite connection to the characters; it was hard to believe that this was Haynes' first book. Her ability to write so that the reader could visualize was excellent; in most cases during most passages, readers all felt as though they were right there, experiencing events along with the characters. Haynes offered universal truths through Canaan, Joody, Even and Valuable and the book was absolutely "rich". My own experience with this book gives it a 9.5; I was taken with many of the characters. I was saddened by Luvenia's father - he had what seemed to be a God-believing spirit and yet to have been a murdering member of the KKK; and Joody's insight into what made up a "six-sided woman", her relationship with Even Grade, and my wondering as to whether or not I was or am a six-sided woman myself, along with her insight into Luvenia and her lack of understanding of the "fluids". Joody had intuitive insight into the importance of fluids (e.g., Valuable's birth and her "marking" the quilt - so insightful).Read more ›
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Clarke on January 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is hard to know how to put my thoughts into writing. I read this book twice one right after the other in the summer of 1999. I am dumbstruck by the skill and complexity Melinda Haynes was able to come up with in her debut novel. I almost want to call her and discuss the book. It is real, funny, warm, loving and heartbreaking. How can one book be all of that? I am now in a book group and am recommending this to them to read. I know that everyone sees things differently so I just hope others find the humor and love between these two races. I am still a bit confused by some issues and hope a group discussion will clear that up.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I too am a voracious reader. I very, very, seldom read a book a second time (too many books, too little time). I will however, make an exception for this book.
Read it twice...the first time for the story; the second time for the language. I notice that none of the previous reviewers are from the south...maybe it helps to be southern to read, enjoy, and perhaps to understand this book. I loved it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Susan Lewis on September 8, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is now one of my top five favorite books. The book reads like a screenplay, you can picture each chapter as clearly as a scene from a movie. The characters are so rich in southern culture and euphemisms, for me it brought back childhood memories of people and places long since forgotten. An amazing aspect of the book was the richness of the minor characters. They are deeply rounded and just as complete as the characters from the main storyline.

After the first 3 or 4 chapters, a reader will realize how enticing this book is. It draws you in slowly and soon you are aware that you want to race back to read even a couple of pages, much like I imagine a soap opera hypnotizes a viewer.
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