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3.67  ·  Rating details ·  36,560 ratings  ·  716 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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Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  36,560 ratings  ·  716 reviews

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I started this book years ago during my "Read every single book from Oprah's book club" stage. Looking back now I realize that I really enjoyed some of them but I didn't finish quite a few of them. I picked this one up a few weeks ago, skimming through it to refresh my memory as best I could and then finished reading it.

This book takes placed in Mississippi in 1943. Jewel who already has five children finds herself pregnant with her sixth child. The baby, Brenda Kay is born with Down's Syndr
[Shai] Bibliophage
I bought this book over a decade ago and I had no time to read it then. Recently I found this while I was decluttering and I was thinking of just donating this. But my mind says that I should at least give this a chance to be read.

I was not disappointed on this wonderful novel. This novel is rich about a lot of Jewel's stories from her experiences with her mom, dad, grandmother, school, colored people such as Cathedral, up to her husband Leston and children.

I can see a that there are a lot of n
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who like words strung together, separated, joined by commas to form very boring sentences
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'
Shannon Hill
Jul 02, 2012 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
Dec 10, 2008 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
Apr 07, 2011 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
Erin Mcnamara
Jul 29, 2011 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
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
Oct 11, 2007 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
Carla Nicolosi
Feb 01, 2013 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.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
Such a sad sack of a woman. and way too much use of the N-word.
Jan 02, 2008 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
Tabitha Vohn
May 27, 2015 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
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Paula, Bev
Shelves: own, fiction-novel
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
Aug 20, 2014 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
The Dusty Jacket
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oprahs-book-club
“I say unto you that the baby you be carrying be yo’ hardship, be yo’ test in this world. This be my prophesying unto you, Miss Jewel…The Lord smiling down on you this way.” This is what Jewel Chandler Hilburn was told about her unborn child—her sixth and last. It was 1943 and she had already been blessed abundantly with a good marriage to a loving man, five beautiful children, and a comfortable life in the woods of Mississippi. With this child, Jewel just wanted a living, breathing baby with te ...more
Sep 03, 2007 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
Jun 30, 2008 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
Aug 16, 2013 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
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is my all-time favorite book. It's powerful.
Apr 25, 2010 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
Nancy Freund
Apr 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I will surely read this one again. Some novels are so beautiful in their settings and their characterization that many pages expressions that beg to be underlined. Reading Jewel was a game of hurry, underline, see-what's-next, and SLOW DOWN to make this book last. Much the same pacing as the Hilburn family lives by, with their Mississippi roots and their vibrant Los Angeles years. Lott is certainly one of the rare male writers who inhabits his characters fully -- male and female, children, elder ...more
May 30, 2011 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
Apr 09, 2009 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
Jan 28, 2010 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
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, touching novel about a mother's love and dedication to her retarded daughter spanning over 40 years. The mother, Jewel, is among the first mothers to decide to raise a retarded child within the family when most doctors were advising parents to place them in institutions.

Jewel's determination, sacrifice and hope for her daughter continually reminded me of how my mother-in-law focused her life for over 50 years caring for her Down Syndrome daughter. She had more support and educationa
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Oprah chose this for her book club in 1999. See some of the crazy details here. Lott was one of my references when I applied to the MFA degree at Seattle Pacific; I didn't get in.

Bret Lott signed my copy after he spoke to a creative writing class I taught in 2011 at Palmetto Christian Academy in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Here is a cool story about a family connection with Gene Fant (now the president of NGU).
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ross Savill
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very moving tale, nostalgic and sentimental, on occasion it felt overly so, but it was rarely a slog trying to get past Jewel’s detailed analysis of her thoughts and feelings.

It felt a lot longer then its 358 pages but not in a bad way, it was certainly gripping in places, and my favourite aspect was how you feel like you’re ageing with Jewel, experiencing her adventures and reminiscing her history with her. Enjoyed the contrast between outback Louisiana and urban California.

Emotional ride and
Feb 24, 2008 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.
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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.” 10 likes
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