Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes

Set in the small town of Petal, Mississippi, in the late 1950s, Mother of Pearl is the story of 6 people trying to figure who they are and where they belong. Valuable, age 15, has an unknown father, and her mother is promiscuous and selfish. Even, age 28, is a hardworking black man who grew up as an orphan. Canaan, age 61, is the black neighbor of Evan who enjoys reading, writing, and speaking his mind. Grace, age unknown (I'm guessing somewhere between 30 and 40), is a black woman who works for a white family, caring for the invalid mother, and basically raising 2 boys--Joleb and Burris. Judy (or Joody) is thought of by many townspeople as crazy or a witch because of her dark skin, her strange hair with sticks in it, and the fact she can hear people's thoughts and can sometimes see the future. She lives alone in the woods by the creek. Joleb, a young white teenage boy (raised by Grace), blurts out whatever is on his mind and has no close friends.

This group of people--different backgrounds, age, gender, and race--begin to form friendships, learn to love others as well as themselves, learn to see past skin color, and understand that "family" does not have to be related by blood.

Haynes is a master of characterization. Each character in her novel, whether major or minor, has a unique voice and memorable personality. Throughout the course of the story, it is easy to see the development and the changes the main characters go through because of several tragic events that take place.

When asked the question, "What message do you most hope your novel will communicate to readers?" Haynes responded with, "That mankind will prevail. That the element of human kindness is somewhere inside of us all. That we can celebrate our differences, as well as our commonalities." Mother of Pearl certainly conveys the message Haynes wanted. It is a beautiful story, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, but ultimately a story of acceptance and love.

Date completed: June 2, 2008
# of Pages: 464
Rating: 3.75/5 stars

I had a difficult time understanding some of the symbolism in the novel--such as the reocurring image of the pig, and the relevance of Antigone. If anyone can shed some light on this, I would greatly appreciate your insight! Trish wrote a great review of this book. If you also have read and reviewed this book, please let me know, and I will add your link.


Trish said...

Good review! I had such a tough time trying to figure out what to write--especially without writing about that dang spoiler. I like that we both wrote about the characterization--one of my favorite things in a book. I have a tough time when I don't like or know any of the characters (like Quoyle).

rohit said...

An enjoyable read Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.