Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Oprah definitely has a penchant for books about long-suffering, strong women with dissolute husbands, and this is no exception.  On the other hand, Hattie is not your warm-and-fuzzy, nurturing mother.  When she loses her firstborn twins to pneumonia, she embodies tough love as she focuses on making sure her next nine (!) children survive.  Each chapter tells the story of one or more of her tribe:  one who is homosexual, one who was abused, one whose father is not Hattie's husband, one who uses his seizures to conjure up religious fervor, one who is mentally ill, one who has TB and has given up on life, and one who is given away in order to have a better life.  I had the sense that perhaps Hattie lost the ability to love after the deaths of her first two children, especially when she abandons all but one to start a new life with her lover, who may or may not be an improvement over her husband, as either a father or a provider.  I was not particularly fond of the structure, which was similar to OliveKitteridge, in that the chapters felt like loosely connected short stories.  I can handle the occasional flashback, but this novel jumps around in time more than most, and I finally decided just to ignore that aspect of it.  Also, I would have liked a little more closure with regard to the child that Hattie gives to her sister to raise.  Did the child really have a better life?  Did Hattie maintain a relationship with her?  In fact, the author leaves the reader hanging with regard to almost all of the children and their tribulations.  Most chapters are just a snapshot of a person's life at some critical point in time, and I suppose these snippets combine to give us a pretty full portrait of Hattie herself.  Still, she's a little inscrutable, not really loving, and not really lovable.


Terry Kitay said...

Wow. A first. I agree with everything you said in your post, Patti!

Hope you're doing well.


Terry Kitay said...

It's a first, Patti! I agree with everything in your post.

Hope all is well.


Elizabeth said...

So glad I read your review before I decided to read this book.

I don't think I will. :)


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