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Mother of Pearl

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  14,576 ratings  ·  332 reviews

Capturing all the rueful irony and racial ambivalence of small-town Mississippi in the late 1950s, Melinda Haynes' celebrated novel is a wholly unforgettable exploration of family, identity, and redemption. Mother of Pearl revolves around twenty-eight-year-old Even Grade, a black man who grew up an orphan, and Valuable Korner, the fifteen-year-old white daughter of the to

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Paperback, 465 pages
Published June 1st 2000 by Washington Square Press (first published June 2nd 1999)
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Oprah's Book Club Picks
66th out of 74 books — 1,211 voters
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Best Southern Literature
150th out of 801 books — 1,914 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bruce
I’m feeling guilty. I’m feeling guilty about reviewing Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes. I’m feeling guilty, first, because I didn’t read the whole book, finishing only about the first third. I rarely don’t finish books, driven not only by an inner compulsion to complete what I’ve begun but also by the conviction that the author deserves his or her work to be read in its entirety before judgment is passed, and in this case I have failed Haynes. I feel guilty, second, for having the temerity to ...more
Heather
It makes me sad that this is the only book in probably the last 20+ years that I just put down and never finished. I just absolutely could not get into it. Boring!
Dianna
Feb 10, 2008 Dianna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: novels
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 an ...more
Pari
For some reason you want to keep reading it. Not because you're hoping for an explanation or a story or a plot. But because you want to know what in the world possessed the author to write a book that makes no sense.
Kirsten
I just can't read this book, I probably shouldn't even write a view because I am only 25 pages in. I am an avid reader! I have read so many books, and I read fast...I bought Mother of Pearl at a local bookstore in their used section. It caught my attention because it is on Oprah's Book Club. I have been trying to read this book for 7 months! I can't do it. In the meantime I have read many other books...every time I finish a book I, of course, need a new one to start. So every single time I pick ...more
Andrew Herren
I bought this book used so I didn't know it was an Oprah selection until I read some of the reviews on Amazon. I was a little confused by some of the bad reviews here until I read a few of them. I have to say that I was on the fence with this one for the first 100 pages (seems to be a common complaint) but after that I was hooked. Give this one a good try if you have trouble with it because it WILL come together.

I've lived in the South all of my life and I thought many of the characters reminded
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Wordsmith
I'm going to begin my review by quoting from some of the jacket blurbs, to give you a sense of how well received this first time novelist was with her beautiful piece of work.
From the Chicago Tribune: "Remarkable." From The Plain Dealer in Cleveland: "Haynes is the real thing, a true artist, a genuine writer, and in this book, at least, a genius....MOTHER OF PEARL transports us to the wilds of a different world." From Publishers Weekly: "In prose both rugged and beautiful, Haynes plumbs the secr
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Nickole Dowd
What did I think of this book? Hm, It was good, I liked the story, I laughed aloud in some places and anxious in others. I really didn't care much for the writing style though. It didn't flow, it was hard to follow and it switched between first and third person narratives with no warning. Several times I had to go back and reread a paragraph or start a section over again just to figure out who was doing the talking or who was being talked about. The author not only confused me with the narrative ...more
Beem Weeks
I read this book years ago when it first hit the market. I fell in love with the characters, their dialogue, and the easy-going narration. Melinda Haynes tells a sad tale of racial ambivalence, class order (or disorder), and the mistakes and sins common to mankind--regardless of the era. The story charts the lives of Even Grade, a black man, and Valuable Korner, a fifteen-year-old white girl, the daughter of the town whore. Their lives intersect at points neither could have imagined. Family secr ...more
Maya Davis
I read this book for a project in Ms. Shakir's class. This book was a little bit difficult to follow at some points ,but ultimately it all came together very nicely. I admit, that yes, I indeed cried at the end, twice. Once because it was sad, and once because it was happy.
This story is about a white girl named Valuble Korner, a black man named Even Grade. This is a story about Love, morals, and tough choices. I highly recommend this book. A word of advice, this book tends to get very graphic
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Clint Jones
The plot is woven around the two main characters (Even Grade and Valuable Korner) and a witch, a goat, and some wise old people who live in a quirky little southern town in the 1950's. The plot is full of twists that are shocking, humorous, and heart breaking.

I read this book with a friend and had a blast. I loved this book because it was very literary... full of symbols, motifs, allusions, and figurative language that allows the reader to explore many levels of interpretation. Definitely a book
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Wizzfizz
The book nearly lost me at the beginning - I think it was because I found the language quite difficult to grasp at first. Once I got used to it I reveled in the colloquialisms, sayings and conversations, especially between Even and Canaan. Such gems as "dead as a nob" and "cold as a witches tit" had me chuckling out loud.

The cast of characters is large, and at first seem rather random, but are connected nicely as the story goes on.

The book is really slow at first as well.....but it intrigued me
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Amanda B.
This book I came upon in advisory, randomly. I picked it up, saw it was in the Oprah Book Club and also saw that it took place in the South while segregation was still occurring, which interested me. After reading this book, I do not regret picking it up because it has such an interesting story of these people who are basically trying to find themselves. Haynes uses a lot of Character Nyms, imagery, and characterizations to develop the novel in a way that is classic. The story is mainly about a ...more
Skyla
Wow, I almost kept a journal while I was reading this book just to keep track of my thoughts about it. I generally do not like to read "Oprah" books but I really found this book full of great characters that you wanted to know more about. It took me about 50-60 pages to really get into it and once I was I didn't want to put it down.

I felt so awful for the majority of the characters and the issues they were dealing with (don't want to give anything away till Katie reads it!) I loved Valuable and
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Annie Coppock
I must admit, I bought this book (used for $2) because the book jacket is simply gorgeous. Shallow, I know, but I like to let these impressions lead me where they will. A review I read of the book described Melinda Haynes' writing as "exquisite prose". Exactly! I found her descriptions delicious -- "... Who ever knew that brown could be such a rainbow..." LOVE that! A little research revealed that she was a artist (painter) first. Makes perfect sense! Some of the story lines spoke to me. Some di ...more
Lauren
In the 1950's, small-town Mississippi, there were still racial divides. In the coloured part of town is Even Grade, a black man who is an orphan and only a few friends. Across the river is Valuable Korner, whose grandmother recently passed away so her mom came back to take care of her but is known to the whole town as a whore. The story revolves around these two and eventually their stories merge. Val is experiencing teenage love with her only friend Jackson and becomes pregnant right before he ...more
Rand Zacharias
Love Melinda's use of archaic language from a time long ago.

I must agree with many of the previous reviews. Haynes pulls no punches and launches her first book with a broad menagerie of characters from all walks of life during the 1950s. Unique characters with an "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" feel to it.

The tragedy and triumph of the novel's characters may be too expected, but the effort and excellence of Haynes' skills as an author are obvious.
Wendy Tegtman
This book took me forever to read! It is not worth your time! I don't usually leave comments but the author is all over the place in this book. It is hard to follow and the only good part was the last five chapters!
Autumn
On the plus side, it probably could have been worse. This book comes dangerously close to 'The Help' territory (haven't read, so I'm making some assumptions, but whatever). Race is forefront, but dealt with in a simplistic, 'nice white people v bad white people' sort of way, without any larger analysis. Of course there are magical black people-- how could there not be? Several of the major plot points are so predictable that you have to wonder if something different is going to be revealed at th ...more
Debbie
This book came recommended. I tried really hard to get into and finally gave up. Too strange for me. I could't connect with the characters.
Jenny Taylor
Like many other reviewers, I found Haynes' novel rather dry. I was increasingly bored, but did charge through to the finish, at which point I was left wondering what the plot actually was. As far as I can reason, it is about the interconnectedness of human beings, particularly in a racially divisive time period. I think the same idea could have been achieved with a more entertaining tale, though.

As for the characters, there were simply too many of them for any to be fully developed. Undeveloped
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Pam
I had a hard time getting into this book initially, but it did get better towards the end.
Starla
This was an unusual book for me. I almost put it down many times after starting it. There are so many characters and storylines going on that I felt lost at times.

The writing is wonderful however, and though it took me until somewhere around page 180, I wanted to know how the story would end. What each persons, or couples, outcome would be.

The ending was one that made me feel sad, and unsettled. So many unhappy people and such an unhappy time and place.

Spoiler to follow:

Though I was content, if
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Marsia
Dec 11, 2009 Marsia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like stories set in the 1950s &/or in the South; those who like first novels
Recommended to Marsia by: Oprah Winfrey
Shelves: from-the-south
Grrrrr! I started a new virtual bookshelf for this book and must say I truly despise the way the Goodreads program automatically changed--incorrectly and for the worse--what I typed in the blank. There is no reason whatever for our book categories to be automatically hyphenated, nor for changing all capital letters to lowercase. For example, I put a capital "S" in the word "South" in this category for good reason; the South in the United States is always capitalized to distinguish it as a region ...more
Nan
I can see why Mother of Pearl was one of Oprah's Book Club choices. It is beautifully written and taps into deep emotion. It came out in 1999, and thanks to Paula, I didn't miss this one. In her first novel, Melinda Haynes has constructed a very powerful, life affirming story set in the 1950s in Mississippi. The plot lines are as interesting as the characters' names: Even Grade, Canaan Mosley, Just Plain Grace, Joody Two-Sun, Valuable Korner, Joleb Green, Neva Moore . . . and others. Each name i ...more
Cher
I'm starting to realize that Oprah and I have very different tastes in books! LOL This book was ok and I could just as easily have given it three stars instead of two. It's set in the deep South during the segregated 1950s. While the writing kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next, when all is said and done, I'm not overly excited about the ending.

The down side to this book was that it was difficult to stay interested in it at the beginning. Also...there are so many differen
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Christine
Mother of Pearl, by Melina Hayes

I read this book many years ago, after seeing a review on it. I’ll admit I read this book because the majority of reviews said it was hard to get into. I saw that it was on Oprah’s Book Club and honestly I jumped for it. It had been a year since I had actually read a book, and I missed it. I probably shouldn’t have picked such a polarizing book but what can I say, I enjoy a challenge.
That being said, at first I struggled with the first few chapters. I enjoy readi
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Elizabeth Moeller
I thought that this book was amazing. It has everything that I am looking for in a novel: a plot that doesn't go the way I would expect; interesting characters who are fully formed and really differentiated from each other; a rich sense of the time and place that the story is set in and interesting insights about social issues that makes me think about issues in a way I might not have previously.
This is Haynes first novel and I was really surprised because of the skill she displayed in creating
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Nikki
Aug 25, 2011 Nikki is currently reading it
Although I’m not done with this book yet, I must admit it is sort of magical in how at first you think you’re going to be bored senseless with it and then it sort of takes hold of you. I admit the descriptive language is sometimes lost on me, especially when Hayne’s describes animals and plants I’ve never seen before. While there are a lot of characters and a lot of things going on, I think the story is told in an episodic manner that makes it easier to digest. My favorite character, by far, is ...more
Cynthia
The characters were interesting, my favorites were Val, Joleb, Canaan, and Grace. The plot for the most part kept me interested--the romance between Val & Jackson (and their true blood relationship), the romance between Canaan and Grace, the friendship between Canaan and Even, the flood, and the pregnancy. Joleb was a surprise for me. At first I did not like him (how he treated Val), but after he had a breakdown, his character and the stuff that came out of his mouth were so funny-- the only ...more
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Oprah book club starts with 2 kids in a river, there is an old woman and maybe a fence [s] 6 31 Mar 13, 2014 08:31AM  
Slow Starter? 14 28 Sep 11, 2013 08:10AM  
Question about the ending 2 14 Jan 30, 2013 06:41AM  
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