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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  21,075 ratings  ·  451 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, 560 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Pocket Books (first published January 1st 1991)
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61st out of 74 books — 1,087 voters
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Sep 06, 2008 Joe rated it 2 of 5 stars 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'...more
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
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...more
Shannon Hill
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...more
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...more
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...more
Carla Nicolosi
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.
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
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
Erin Mcnamara
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
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 4 of 5 stars 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
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...more
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...more
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
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
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
Regina McNally
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
A first person narrative. After reading two or three of these Oprah book selections, I got bored to death.
Oh yeah, the protagonist is a selfish ass. My subconscious has been constantly praying for her untimely demise!
An absolutely wonderful, moving story about family. The love, loyalty, sacrifices that they make for each other. I would recommend this book to everyone.
Connie Braseth
All the way up until about 3/4 through this book I planned to give it four stars. Then the ending dragged. Not only that, it became repetitive. I felt like I could skip several pages and still be reading basically the same thing.

It's like most Oprah books with a strong female lead character. I loved how the book spanned the entire lifetime of Jewel. It really gave a great perspective of who she was.

I wasn't real crazy about Mississippi being the main villain in the book but considering the tim...more
By South Carolina author, Brett Lott. Lots of folks loved this book. I wasn't too crazy about it as I recall. The writing was good, but I lacked sympathy for Jewel. I guess having worked with tons of kids with Downs Syndrome, and having several friends with children with it, I took it all too personally.

In the backwoods of Mississippi, a land of honeysuckle and grapevine, Jewel and her husband, Leston, are truly blessed; they have five fine children. When Brenda Kay is born in...more
This book was so full of characters and plot that towards the end, I seriously had the thought that I was reading book 2 or 3 of a series. Jewel's life story is compelling and you want to know how she's going to make it. The book takes place in the early 1940's in the the "n" word is used generously- be warned! That said, there's a point in the story where Jewel seems to come out of the dark ages regarding her prejudices of African Americans. I love, love, love her relationship with h...more
In the past I've enjoyed Brett Lott's nonfiction, particularly essays that have appeared in Fourth Genre, but I was not particularly taken by this book. The biggest issue was that it lacked concision. It waxed way too long, especially in the second half where large segments of time were collapsed into a few pages or even sentences and then 15 minutes of experience with minimal action and lots of internal monologue took over 10-15 pages. I found myself skimming. I also would liked to have noted a...more
John Henry
This book is written extremely well. The prose is so rich, so deep, so intimate, it's symphonic. And it's a great story about a family, a couple, who has a Downs baby in the 50s (around there). All told from the mother's POV, Jewel. Power prose all through. Masterful.

However, the N- word permeates the vocabulary of this southern country white trash cracker family. Hence the four stars instead of five. Although the mother comes to understand the N word's derogatory nature, and approaches an attit...more
I read this book the month Oprah picked it for her book club. My now 9-year-old daughter was just a baby at the time, and she has Down syndrome. I knew that it would be something I could read and even get on the show for talking about. And sure enough, I almost did! I got a call from a producer from the show and discussed the book for half an hour before I sent off a picture of myself to him. I was quite disappointed when I got beat out for appearing on the show by a woman who had GIVEN UP HER B...more
Women who lives in the South in the mid to later 1900's and is very traditional. She has a load of kids and her last one is mentally disabled. It's mainly about her and her relationship with the child and how the family deals. They move out to Los Angeles, against the husbands wishes and everyone thrives out there. About 15 years later, the husband wants to move back to the South and for some reason, the wife doesn't put up much of a fight, which pissed me off so much. All her children were grow...more
I really liked this book a lot, as my rating shows. However, if it were not for the subject matter and story, I would have given the book only 2-3 stars due to the author's style. The story had a slow drawl to it. Maybe the pace was purposeful as it was about folks in and from Mississippi. But I hated that. I had to read a full quarter of the book before I knew I was interested. Many sentences were extremely long as well, slowing the pace of the book even more. So many times as I read through th...more
I was very impressed that this novel was written by a man! He describes so truthfully and eloquently the feelings of a married woman raising a family.

Jewel's courage and strength in raising her Down's Syndrome daughter Brenda Kay is admirable, although it is at the expense of her other five children.

This novel is about so many things; marriage, children, triumphs, struggles, mental disabilities, relationships, family life and love.

I often felt sadness while reading this novel. Sadness for Jewel...more
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