Friday, June 21, 2013

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Book Review

Hattie Shepherd is a black woman who heads North away from the Jim Crow laws of her native Georgia with her no-good husband. Spanning the course of her adult life, each chapter of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis is about one of Hattie's children. In this unique style, each chapter is at once a short story unto itself and part of the greater story of Hattie's life and influence.

Mathis writes with passion and emotion and the reader can't help but connect and experience the pain, sorrow, remorse, shame, humiliation, grief and despair as the characters. It is at times raw and coarse. It is sensual and passionate. It is complex with human suffering and simple with forgiveness and hope.

The siblings are tied together by the family bond but each has his or her own trials and heartaches. Most of their stories are not ones of happiness or joy. In fact, it is at times rather depressing. Mathis is able to capture all that feeling and force the reader to understand, to feel, to suffer along with the characters.

I almost didn't finish the book after the first few chapters. One in particular, was especially crass. The men in Mathis's novel are pretty much worthless as providers and faithless in their relationships. It's also hard to believe that after all of Hattie's sacrifices as a mother, nearly all her children would grow up to be so emotionally immature and unstable.

The writing in The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is superb. The style is unique and works as a vehicle for telling Hattie's very depressing life story.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie in exchange for my honest review.**

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