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3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  29,976 Ratings  ·  544 Reviews
(Oprah's Book Club)

Jewel and her husband, Leston, have been blessed by a fifth child, a girl they name Brenda Kay. But Brenda Kay, who was born with Down's syndrome, is also a challenge. In this inspirational and deeply moving audiobook, Jewel realizes that Brenda Kay is her special gift from God.
Paperback, 535 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Pocket Books (first published January 1st 1991)
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61st out of 77 books — 1,341 voters
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155th out of 426 books — 264 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 06, 2008 Joe rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like words strung together, separated, joined by commas to form very boring sentences
Shelves: borrowed-family
The first warning, of course, is the pre-printed "O" proudly gazing from the upper right hand corner of Bret Lott's novel Jewel: the significant stamp of Oprah, a woman whose taste in contemporary literature has roughly the same batting average as a pitcher in the National League.

Jewel, which suffers from the same florid prose employed by Janet Fitch (author of White Oleander, another Oprah Pick Of Death), is the "epic" story of a woman from rural Mississippi who gives birth to a girl with Down'
Apr 14, 2011 Dyana rated it it was amazing
One should not read past reviews until you finish a book. Alot of 2 and 3 stars; but I liked this book immensely, so I gave it a five! It was well written, had good character development, an eye for detail, and was emotion packed. A poor rural Mississippi family's sixth child born in 1943 is a Downs Syndrome child. Instead of putting her daughter, Brenda Kay, in an institution Jewel believes she can "fix" her daughter by moving to California where there is help for such children. Her husband, Le ...more
Shannon Hill
Jul 02, 2012 Shannon Hill rated it really liked it
I've worked with special needs adults for 21 years and have interviewed many, many families. And I live in Mississippi. And I am a mom. This book is spot on. Like others who have commented, I was frequently struck with amazement that it was written by a man.

From a literary point of view, I'm not sure all of the developmental information about Jewel was needed, but much of it was. It probably could have been condensed. But to the reviewers who say it was slow and tedious and lacked a satisfactor
Beth F.
I'm wavering between 2 stars and 3. I'm rounding up because I'm in a good mood right now.

Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me a stack of books she’d been collecting based on Oprah’s book list recommendations and wanted to pass them on (not because they were great or anything, she assured me, but because she doesn’t like to keep books). I laughed at her but accepted the books because I was a recent college graduate with a crappy job and a debt to income ratio that would make anybody cringe
Dec 21, 2008 Rosemaryknits rated it liked it
I liked this book. I *really* like the prose style of the author. I just didn't much like the story line, hence the 3 stars, rather than more. If I could, I'd give the author 5 stars for writing style, and 2 stars for story line. It just didn't much go anywhere. I kept reading because I felt like there was going to be a point made, somewhere along the line, but it never made it.

What really bugged me was a male author, writing from the first person perspective of a woman. I don't know why this s
Oct 12, 2007 Hannah rated it liked it
I think this book was so well written, the characters are so well developed and even now, after reading it over a year ago, I still am amazed that it was written by a man. Brett Lott wrote Jewel extremely well.

But, a book being well written doesn't make me love it. I just disagreed with so many of the actions of Jewel that it left such a bad taste in my mouth at the end. Mainly her disdain and disregard for her husband. Some might see it as inspiring that she was so determined to get to Californ
Erin Mcnamara
Jul 29, 2011 Erin Mcnamara rated it did not like it
Boooooooring! There was no climax. The book didn't build up to anything, it was just about Jewel's boring life. It took me 3 months to finish it because I kept buying new books to read instead, I finally had to force myself to finish it, hoping that it would get better. It didn't. I read for about 10 minutes at a time (while smoking or pooping), so I need a book that will keep me interested and maybe even make me want to sit down and read instead of watching TV or whatnot. All the internal dialo ...more
Aug 27, 2014 LemonLinda rated it really liked it
This was definitely a thoughtful read - not fast paced or exciting - but issue and character driven. You meet Jewel as she discovers she is pregnant with her 6th child in rural Mississippi in 1943. Immediately you realize that the baby is not normal in some aspect and once the baby, Brenda Kay, is diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, it is evident that the lives of Jewel, her other five children and her husband are forever changed. This is a mother's journey of reflection of her past life, her presen ...more
Carla Nicolosi
Feb 07, 2013 Carla Nicolosi rated it liked it
I was so happy to FINALLY get through this book. I always feel obligated to finish books I start but had a tough time with this one. The story is a good one but written in a way that jumps back and forth between the protagonist's childhood and adulthood which I didn't care for. It did get much better late in the book but I've come to the conclusion that Oprah and I have a difference of opinion regarding praiseworthy books.
Tabitha Vohn
Jun 12, 2015 Tabitha Vohn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: high-brow
This is a heart-rending book; one that touches so effortlessly on the depths of pain and happiness that the human spirit can endure. It is a beautiful, thoughtful story; one with the message of the hope that is found through perseverance, forgiveness, and finding the joy in even the most trying of situations, even those that become a life-long commitment.

This story is not only about Jewel, although a large portion of it follows her journey as a cast-off orphan to a mother of five and lifelong c
Jan 02, 2008 Cynthia rated it it was ok
I almost quit this book at least 3 different times but I kept on reading. I had to struggle just to read the last 10 pages as well.

First the good points: The topic interested me greatly when I read the back cover. I like to read about stories set in the South that involve family relationships. Additionally, what made this book unique was it revolved around the challenges in raising Brenda Key, a Down Syndrome girl, in the South during the 50's and 60's. Also, there are a few touching moments be
Sep 03, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it
Each chapter in this novel begins with a scene in the present, goes to a character-defining flashback brought on by something as simple as a word or a touch, and then comes back to round out the rest of the present situation. Jewel, the title character, narrates her story of life after--and before--giving birth to her sixth child, Brenda Kay, who has Down Syndrome. Jewel questions the character of a God who would allow this trial in her life, but falls back on what her past experiences have taug ...more
Jul 22, 2008 Maria rated it liked it
Having watched family members raise two special needs children I can relate to what Jewel experienced in this book with the birth of her daughter. However, as a mother it saddened me to watch her lose touch with the rest of her life in her constant need to try to improve her daughter when I felt she could have embraced and accepted her more for who she was instead of who she hoped for her to be. The book focuses too much on the burden that Brenda Kay is instead of showing ways in which she added ...more
May 30, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it
A very, very well written novel. I was surprised that a male could write with the extreme amount of sensitivity and depth to the many female issues such as child birth, breast feeding, demands of a newborn, that are covered in this book, and with such tenderness at that. Wow, can't wait to read more of his work. Also, it takes place in the deep south, places where I went to middle school(Picayune), high school(Bogalusa) and graduated from...having actually lived on the Pearl River where the auth ...more
Sep 02, 2009 Shelly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Paula, Bev
Shelves: fiction-novel, own
This is one of those books that will stay with me the rest of my life. I can hardly believe it was written by a MAN! The intrinsic feelings of a woman, wife, mother were very wisely written. The theme of once a mother means forever a mother is emphasized in the fact that Jewel has a Down's Syndrome daughter that never ages mentally past six years old. Contrast this with the fact that Jewel still has 5 other "normal" children to nurture and care for and you have an interesting story. Towards the ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Suzanna rated it liked it
Lott does a terrific job with this book. The story essentially covers the entire life of the main character, Jewel, but the author does so in a way that is sensitive, believable, and never feels unfocused. I enjoyed Lott's perception and honest insight into human character.

At the very beginning, I struggled just a hair with some word choices at first (the "n" word, cracker, retard, etc.), but more because it offends my 21st C. sensibilities than because of the writing. It was appropriately used
Sep 20, 2009 Margaret rated it it was ok
I gave Jewel 2 1/2 stars. It was a long saga of a family (from 1940 - 1984) who lived in Purvis, Louisana during WW2, and whose sixth child was born a Down's Syndrom child - (called "Mongoloid idiot" in those days). There life story covers Jewel, the mother, doing everything she could think, read, hear about to help her daughter, Brenda Kay. She created an amazing mother-daughter relationship that was her primary concern in life - her other children and husband struggling to get through life mos ...more
Mar 25, 2012 Lynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I guess when I'm looking at what makes a good read, it's that even if the people are pretty ordinary under normal circumstances, they're put in circumstances that are somewhat extraordinary. This book, to me, was too, well, ordinary. It's not that I didn't admire the characters. I did--very much. I think Jewel and her husband are wonderful people who raise a good, strong family. But this could be the story of anybody with a Downs Syndrome child in the 50s-70s. This could have been my aunt and un ...more
Apr 09, 2009 Sherry rated it it was amazing
As a teacher of special needs youngsters, this book was a must read for me. The story begins in the 30's, if I remember with the birth of a Down Syndrome child to a family in the deep south.The story describes the many difficulties the family members had dealing with the problems the child brought. The mother had difficult choices to make and, subsequently, so did the other family members. Would I have reacted in the same way if this was my child? I don't really know. But, I do know that having ...more
Feb 03, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it
I loved every bit of this book. I thought the author did a good job of developing various characters' awareness and adjusting their behavior accordingly ... again staying true to reality in that some people cannot or do not break old habits while others learn and grow through travels and life experiences. I did not find the language offensive because it was used as would've been genuinely spoken by people based on the region/year of the given chapter. The reason I could not go with five stars is ...more
Jun 24, 2014 Justine rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 05, 2012 Cyndi rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Some books might not have the most coherent plot or the best writing but you just can't put them down. Something about them keeps you reading and wanting more. Then there are books that you want to like, that are about interesting subjects and have decent writing but you have to make yourself read them. Jewel is one of the latter. I can't say what I didn't like but reading it was a chore. Not so much that I couldn't finish it, but it did take me a while.

It's an Oprah book of the month and that m
Aug 22, 2013 Tej rated it really liked it
Although the pace was a bit slow, I thought it was well-crafted. I especially liked the depiction of a marriage when the partners have opposing wants and there is no room for compromise. It is a universal subject that, I think, all partnerships experience at least once. I also liked following the growth of the character of Jewel, not only for her personally but also seeing it through the perspective of American society when it, too, was experiencing a tremendous change during the post-WWII years ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"It is 1943 in the backwoods of Mississippi. In the land of honeysuckle and wild grapevine, Jewel Hilburn and her husband Leston -- whose love for his wife is the surest comfort she's ever known -- are truly blessed. They have five fine children who embrace the world as though it were a sumptuous table set for a feast; and when Brenda Kay is born, Jewel gives thanks for yet another healthy baby, last-born and most welcome.

Jewel is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lig
Aug 13, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here is fine craftsmanship, the kind of book you can tell has been written with care and attention, each character tenderly brought to life through a simple, telling detail. And Jewel herself, not a fine cut gem but rather one polished by being thoroughly tumbled through the wear of raising six children, of staying loyal to a taciturn man, of caring for her last daughter in the only way she saw fit.

Jewel Hillburn is a proud woman, sure of her own way through the world but she is humbled, gradua
Nov 16, 2015 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Loved this book !!!
Feb 05, 2014 Regina rated it really liked it
Jewel is the first-person story of the life (the entire life) of a woman raised in the deep south in the early part of the 20th century. The book moves along through Jewel's life from childhood through to the end of her life, intermittently moving back and forth from present to past, to tell the details of her experiences. Jewel has many tough times, but the book primarily focuses on how her life changes when her sixth child is born with Down's Syndrome. The characters in the book are engaging, ...more
Feb 24, 2008 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves stories of resilient families
Recommended to Mary by: I found it in a bookstore
I have a soft spot for books about disadvantaged kids. Here was another one about a child with Down syndrome, and the sacrifices made by a mother who loved this child, to keep her and raise her. Beautifully written, deeply felt.
Oct 13, 2015 Amoy rated it really liked it
I have a love-hate relationship with books inducted into Oprah's book club. Some are great, while some are meh. Jewel straddles the fence of being almost great but something holds it back. Lott was a new author for me so I was eager to see what he had in store. The first thing that struck me was his writing style - a compelling narrative written from a woman's point of view. It does get wordy and long-winded which was tiring at times, which accounts for the 4 stars. There is an audience for this ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Barbara rated it liked it
Jewel, from the backwoods of Mississippi, is a force of nature, and nothing is going to get in the way of her God-ordained salvation in the form of her mission and trial to transform her youngest child's life by moving her entire family from the rank swamps of the bayou to sunny California. This is a story of the fierceness of maternal love and fidelity. Leston, the husband and father, as well as the other children are, to one extent or another, collateral damage in this epic, decades-long war i ...more
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Bret Lott is the bestselling author of fourteen books, most recently the nonfiction collection Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian (Crossway 2013) and the novel Dead Low Tide (Random House 2012). Other books include the story collection The Difference Between Women and Men, the nonfiction book Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life, and the novels Jewe ...more
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“I felt on my back gentle pats like fragile wings just touching me, touching me: my grandchildren's hands.” 9 likes
“I saw Tory's face as I took my beating. I saw myself pulled up by Pastor from the Pearl River, wet and shaking and miserable in the Lord, Missy Cook on the bank and crying tears meant for nothing but effect, and I knew then I was no better than my grandmother, knew no matter how hard you prayed, no matter how shiny the stones in your pocket, no matter how far behind you you thought your old lives were, they were never gone. They were never more than an inch from the surface, battling every moment you breathed, each and every moment of every day fighting to rise up and take you over. And I'd lost, let those old lives win just now.” 0 likes
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