Title: Mother of Pearl
Publisher: Hyperion, New York
Publication Date: 1999
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Very Good +
Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good +
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: 1st Edition
Second printing of the first edition. Signed by the author in blue ink on the title page: "Melinda Haynes"; her debut novel. Book is unmarked; slight spine slant; corners sharp, spine ends bumped. Dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $23.95); has "Oprah's Book Club" slug on front panel; some edgewear at spine ends, corners. Brodart protected. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 001511
Synopsis: 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 country" 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 whose 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.
Told in beautifully naunced narrative with a staggering richness that resonates with emotional truth, MOTHER OF PEARL is a haunting, bittersweet tale of the search for identity and the power of renewal.
Review: Oprah Book ClubŪ Selection, June 1999: Twenty-eight-year-old Even Grade is a black man who was orphaned as a child; 15-year-old Valuable Korner is a white girl who might as well have been. Petal, Mississippi, circa 1956, seems an unlikely spot for these two to connect, but it soon becomes apparent in Mother of Pearl that a friendship across race lines is just one of many miracles waiting to happen in this small Southern town. Melinda Haynes's remarkable debut novel begins in a hot August, when young Val's lifelong friendship with Jackson McClain is starting to change into something more profound, and Even is falling crazy in love with Joody Two Sun, a mixed-race woman with amazing powers.
Woven in and around these two central love stories are myriad other characters, other tales. There is 16-year-old Joleb Green, for example, whose mother was incapacitated by a stroke when he was born, and who was raised by the black housekeeper, Grace. There is Even's friend Canaan, an older black man who spends his time reading Greek tragedy and writing his work "The Reality of the Negro"; Valuable's mother, Enid, the town whore; and Neva and Bea, a lesbian couple who have helped to raise the girl. Until this year, blacks and whites have occupied separate universes, for the most part; then Joleb Green suffers a terrible accident, and it is Joody Two Sun who saves his life and Grace who restores his soul. At the same time, a pregnant Val arrives on Joody and Even's doorstep, hungry for the understanding and acceptance she cannot find at home. Though at first Even is resistant, Val's humanity soon transcends her color in his mind:
Even chuckled and shook his head, happy for a reason he couldn't distinguish other than at that moment of Canaan's near-perfect cast, all seemed right with the world, as right as a thing can be what with a white girl camped out in the middle of the Quarter with no plans of leaving.Gradually, without really intending it, Joleb, Val, Even, Joody, Grace, and Canaan form something that looks suspiciously like a family--a relationship that will soon be tested to the limit when Val's baby is born.
Melinda Haynes has taken on a Herculean task, crafting a multicharacter story that reaches across racial barriers to encompass an entire community. She doesn't shy away from the ugliness in life--bigotry of every stripe, mean-spiritedness, betrayal, thoughtless cruelty, and death--but what interests her is the potential of the human heart to find space within itself for the most unexpected people. With its strong, lyrical language and fully realized characters, Mother of Pearl is a fine novel and a terrific introduction to a new literary voice. --Alix Wilber
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