Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl

A Novel

Book - 1999
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Marking the debut of a stunning new literary talent, Mother of Pearl captures the irony and beauty of life in the Deep South in exquisite prose that brings to mind Kaye Gibbons and Olive Ann Burns. But Haynes creates a wholly distinctive new style by drawing on her own Southern roots and the "noble county" language of her youth in this remarkable first novel.

Set in a small Mississippi town in the late 1950s, Mother of Pearl is populated by wonderfully rich and original characters with themes of identity and the true meaning of family interwoven throughout. The story revolves around twenty-eight-year-old. Even Grade, a black man who grew up an orphan, and Valuable Korner, a fifteen-year-old white girl who is the daughter of the town whore and an unknown father. Their paths cross through Joody Two Sun, a seer, who sets up camp along the riverbank just outside of town and becomes Even's lover. Both Even and Valuable are seeking the family, love, and commitment they never had, and their search ultimately takes both of them to places they never dreamed they'd go.

Publisher: New York : Hyperion, c1999.
ISBN: 9780786866274
Characteristics: 448 p. ;,24 cm.


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brianreynolds Oct 29, 2011

Melinda Haynes' <i>Mother of Pearl</i>, moving like a sailing vessel, tacking to catch somewhat random winds, frequently grinding to a halt in the calms, nevertheless followed a true course to its climax. Stories guided by a tragic plot are not all that common, but this one for all its excesses and failings did arrive at its destination, following the wake of such works as <i>Romeo and Juliet</i>. The classic battle between Montagues and Capulets became the South's racial conflict of the 1950's; star-crossed lovers abound in this tale, but it is the demise of the book's heroine that brings peace to the feuding parties. It remains a great story, one told with enviable creativity in modern dress. Worth the read, in my opinion for that alone.

Other aspects of <i>Pearl</i>, however, compare less favourably with William Shakespeare. The music of various southern dialects became tedious and grated at times. Knowing that "aunt" was pronounced "ont" distracted more than it entertained. Dreams and symbols, spirits and landscapes seasoned the book well beyond my tolerance for spice. How many times can a reader happily be treated to a reading of pig entrails, for instance? Characters too often slid from the idiosyncratic to the caricatural. A matter of taste, I admit. Bottom line: this was a book that, in too many places, required my serious effort to keep it from transforming into a pillow.

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