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In The Media


Oprah's Book Club 2.0
December 04, 2012
   
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis

Overview -

Major media event and wonderful surprise awaits in this sharply written and tautly paced new book. The perfect gift for everyone on your list this year and bound to become a classic.

A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.  Read more...


 
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More About The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
 
 
 
Overview

Major media event and wonderful surprise awaits in this sharply written and tautly paced new book. The perfect gift for everyone on your list this year and bound to become a classic.

A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother's monumental courage and the journey of a nation.
Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis's "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" is wondrous from first to last--glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream, Mathis's first novel heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385350280
  • ISBN-10: 0385350287
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: December 2012
  • Page Count: 243


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Sagas

 
BookPage Reviews

Electric debut traces one family's struggle to endure

The saga of Hattie Shepherd, an African American who leaves Georgia in 1925 in pursuit of the American dream in Philadelphia, may sound as if it would be made of common elements. But the talent of her creator, first-time novelist Ayana Mathis, is uncommon, as the opening pages of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie—an Oprah Book Club 2.0 selection—make clear.

Her preacher in Georgia declared the North to be “a New Jerusalem,” but Hattie’s long road of trouble and travail over six decades begins very soon after she arrives in Philadelphia, where her twin babies become desperately ill. “She pressed her cheeks to the tops of their heads. Oh, their velvet skin! She felt their deaths like a ripping in her body.”

Out of fear that her nine later children and her grandchildren will fail to survive in a world of hatred and poverty, Hattie becomes a hard, demanding woman. Mathis dramatically shows this shift through the perspectives of 12 different characters. The author’s electric style is both tough and compassionate, creating almost unbearably poignant moments.

Mathis moves the reader from Hattie’s perspective to the story of her grown son Floyd, a horn player, 23 years later. Then the focus shifts to Six, a preacher; then to the child Ruthie; and on to eight more of Hattie’s descendants. But Hattie is a vibrant participant in the drama of each separate narrative. In fact, the dialogue throughout is achingly real. This is a novel of distinctive and haunting voices that yearn for love. 

The Promised Land of the North fails Hattie and her family. What succeeds is the culture of a people, of a family, that has struggled to endure.

 
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