Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mother of Pearl - Melinda Haynes

Title: Mother of Pearl
Author: Melinda Haynes
Date Finished: June 5, 2008
Yearly Count: 29
Pages: 445
Rating: 4/5

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for at least five years knowing nothing about it. I'm glad that a friend informed me that it was set in the south so I could add it to one more challenge--because sometimes I need that motivation to finally read a book. Really? Yes.

Mother of Pearl, set in the deep south of Mississippi, is about a number of characters who couldn't be more different from each other. However, an event brings the characters together in an unlikely bond--one that changes everyone's life forever. At the center of the group is a teenage girl, Valuable Korner, who is struggling to know herself and find her place in the world, and a young man, Even Grade, who is searching for meaning in his life as well as a family of his own. Through these two characters, the plot winds together melding the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the religious and spiritual, the gay and straight, and the black and the white during the 1950s when tolerance was sometimes difficult to find.

While some of the symbolism of the book was lost on me, I couldn't help but be swept away in Haynes' rich Southern language. I think I read somewhere that she is also an artist? and it shows in her careful attention to landscape and setting. When I opened the book to read, I was transported from my hot, muggy Dallas to hot, muggy Petal, Mississippi, but everything was so much more beautiful there that I wanted to grab and ice tea (which I don't drink) and sit on a rocker on my front porch (which I don't have) to take everything in.

In addition to her ability to write the landscape, Haynes wrote characters that were flawed, funny, sad, heart breaking, and hopeful. I grew to care about the people in this book--including Valuable's colorful lesbian aunts, Even's neighbor Canaan who philosophizes on the nature of man, and Joleb, a troubled soul who finally finds his way. I would recommend this book, but I think it would work best in a book club setting where all of the different themes and ideas can be teased out. The book was a little slow getting in to and there is a little bit of language and sex (including taboos such as incest), but the message that we are all human--part of one common world instead of little tiny circles--is one that we can all relate to and learn from.

Laura at Reading Reflections also reviewed it. Have you read it?

16 comments:

  1. Lovely review! I hopefully one day will get the chance to read this one, although I have quite a TBR list and the likes. Interesting book. A story about the South is grand.

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  2. Nope, haven't read it. But I sure as heck want to after reading your wonderful review!

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  3. I'm w/ Daydream and Debi, I want to read this book thanks to your review, too!

    I put up a second Mr. Linky and I'll move this review to it, but I noticed something. This is your second and you haven't tried the Southern Haiku Contest. Technically, you could write two and have two chances to win an autographed copy of Mudbound. Laura wrote one for her Mother of Pearl experience.

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  4. I'm with Daydream, Debi and Maggie - you made me want to read this one! I really like that last thing you said about how we're all human.

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  5. Thank you for the review I have this on my TBR pile.

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  6. I read this years ago and remember really enjoying it! Unfortunately it was in my pre-blogging days!

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  7. I"m so glad to know that I'm not the only one who has had books on their shelves for years and haven't read them yet!

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  8. Sometimes it does take a challenge to motivate me to read books I really want to read--I just have so many that it's hard to know what to make time for.

    The book you review here does sound good.

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  9. *Harry - I noticed that you'll be reading Gone with the Wind for the classics challenge - I love southern lit as well and you've picked a great one!

    *Debi - Thanks. It was a little slow getting into, but I soon found myself really invested in the story.

    *Maggie - Oops, I've been caught! Really I just haven't been able to find the time for the name your homeplace and the haiku contests. But what great ideas!! You are definitely a challenge host to learn from.

    *Kelly - How the heck are you?? :) I need to pop over to your blog and take a looksy at your beautiful baby (hope that doesn't sound stalkerish). :D Hope you like this one!

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  10. Yes! Although I had no idea it was Southern. I watched the movie, but forgot where in the US it took place! I am so intrigued to see! It's a very long one I fear. I will leave it for the last, so that while I work I can complete more novels.

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  11. *Nymeth - Because of the setting and the time period, tolerance was touched upon a lot in this book, but Haynes reminds us that we need to look past our differences to see what we have in common--the basics.

    *Marg - Any hints as to what the dreams about the pig mean? :) That metaphor flew right over my head! Glad you liked this one as well.

    *Natasha - Oh...I was thinking about it last night and even though I said I've had this one for five years, it must be 7 or 8!! And it isn't the only one that's been collecting dust! It's too bad because sometimes I find real gems in my stacks. :)

    *Lit Feline - I have to stop myself when I start saying--I'd really like to read that, but I can't right now. I don't know why my reading has to be so dictated by challenges--but without them I just stare at my bookshelf usually overwhelmed at what to pick up next. I just have to keep in mind what my reading limits are--I know I can't sign up for every challenge and finish them all!

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  12. *Harry - It is long but it isn't a terribly dense or difficult read. And yes, set in the south (Georgia)--very important to the plot! The book is about the US civil war during the 1860s.

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  13. Oh I remeber that one. It was during the Civil war and from then on most knowledge sips through. That is why I want to read the novel, review it and have it as a constant reminder. ;)

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  14. I'm glad we read this book at the same time--it was nice to talk to someone else about, and I totally agree with your opinion that this would be a great book club book. I'm still sad that you didn't write a haiku about Joody and her age sticks :(

    I guess we'll never know about the pigs--it will remain a mystery forever!

    Great review! I especially like the part where you said "...we are all human--part of one common world instead of tiny little circles..." This was definitely the main message of the book, and one that is good to remember!

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  15. How beautiful! Books with this sort of descriptive power and characterization can be magical.

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  16. *Laura - Now you should read Something Wicked and we can talk about that. :) I think it does make a difference being able to talk through some of the tougher issues in a book with someone else!

    *Heather - Thank you. Haynes does an excellent job with characterization--and element that is very important to me in reading. Everything came together very nicely in this book.

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