Wordsmith's Reviews > Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes
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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 secrets of the South in her stunning debut novel...She is fearless in portraying her characters flaws, their pettiness and racism, their erring thoughts, but she's also merciful, letting them grow and change during the course of the narrative,,,This wise, luminous novel demonstrates her great gifts-for language, courageous storytelling, and compassion." And from Booklist (starred review): Both richly humorous and deeply tragic, this story leaves one wiser, and makes one understand something meaningful and important about life and human nature. Haynes speaks the truth in a story that is astonishingly powerful." Now, to MY review.


I don't cry. I'm just not an emotional person. One thing my mother is always sure to tell me, "You're just like your father." Meaning I am too stoic, unemotional. Point being, I was NOT unemotional while reading this haunting, multi-layered, so very deeply Southern book. As a matter of fact, I had real tears falling down my face, I was fearful of choking on pent-up sobs! This is not such an easy thing to admit.

As a matter of fact, not giving any spoilers away, I was so immersed in this world of hot, steamy, racially charged, small town Petal, Mississippi in the early 1950s that when tragedy REALLY struck 3/4 the way through, and I was so emotionally drained, I literally had to throw the book down. I just couldn't take any more of the heartache right then. I just needed a little breather. That's how real her characterizations are. All her "people" are fully realized and simply come alive and burst off the page. 

You ARE in Petal, Mississippi and it's hot and lazy and the town is divided and their are so many secrets. I do have this to say, this book is truly a work of art. Even the names she gives them are true. The heroine is young Valuable Corner, who has problems being named after a real estate sign. She is the daughter of the town whore, who leaves town soon after her birth, and she is left to be raised by her grandmother, Luvenia. There is heartache for Valuable when Luvenia passes on and Enid, her mother, comes slinking back to town.

 Even Grade is a young black man just trying to make do in the world. His best friend is an older man, Cannan Mosely, who has been writing a discourse for years, "The Reality of The Negro" and is enamored with Greek Mythology. This leaves him at a disconnect with virtually all of his peers and leads to a lot of soul searching on his part. A young half Indian, half Black Voodoo/Shaman woman, Joody Two Sun comes breezing into town, staying down by the river. She sees far and brings with her many changes. This is but a tiny peek into the world of Petal, Mississippi, a tiny town...filled with big secrets. 
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