Jewel

by Bret Lott

Publishers Weekly Jewel Hilburn, the strong-willed narrator of this haunting novel set in rural Mississippi, lavishes the parental love she never received upon her own child, who is afflicted with Down's syndrome. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Jewel Hilburn is a plainspoken woman who tells her story and opens her soul and comes alive as few literary characters do. Her lessons came early in rural Mississippi: an orphan sent to a correctional school, she learned to take responsibility for her life. Her marriage to Leston was solid and loving and produced five fine children and a comfortable living during the relative prosperity of World War II. Then Brenda Kay was born with Down's syndrome, and Jewel's life split in two. There are echoes of Sue Miller's Family Pictures in the portrayal of the effects of an exceptional child on a family, but there is added depth and dimension here, as Jewel spends decades making what she can of her youngest child's life, while regretting what she is unable to give to the rest of her family. When jobs are scarce and doctor bills high in the postwar years, Jewel fixes on California to provide a better life for them all, and she works for what she wants despite the cost to the good man she loves. Jewel's story of a life and its legacy moves at its own pace with strength and dignity, captivating with its moments of aching tenderness and undertow of quiet power. ~--Michele Leber

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus An author of small domestic fictions (A Dream of Old Leaves, 1989; A Stranger's House, 1988; etc.) takes on larger issues in this resonant novel about simple people who reach a state of grace through human tragedy. Jewel and Leston Hilburn are poor Mississippi ``crackers'' and the glad parents of five ordinary children during WW II. Jewel- -whose strong, maternal voice narrates--hears the prophetic words that will change her life forever when Cathedral, a ``niggerwoman servant,'' tells her ``the baby you be carrying be your hardship, be yo test in this world.'' Five months after the birth of Brenda Kay, Jewel learns that this sixth and last child is a ``Mongolian Idiot,'' not expected to live beyond the age of two. But over the next 41 years Jewel realizes the ``giant blessing and curse of a retarded child''--her love for Brenda Kay so fierce and so blinding it runs roughshod over everyone else close to her. Rather than accept a future for her baby in a dead place, she nearly destroys Leston--the only man she's ever loved--by twice uprooting him from Mississippi to California. Consumed by rage and blame, she humiliates Cathedral, her one true friend, because of an accidental fire that leaves Brenda Kay scarred for life. She accepts emotional gaps with her other children--words spoken too late, an embrace interrupted--because she is so bound up in Brenda Kay's salvation. Yet, with all the sacrifice, the glory, and the pain, Brenda Kay's triumphs seem small in the end: she learns to whisper; she can hum a tuneless tune, she writes the letter B, she sometimes laughs. But, though she never grows beyond the mental age of six, Brenda Kay is deeply loved, her very existence a sign of ``the Lord smiling down'' on these good people. A quiet, at times slow-moving novel with exquisite moments of tenderness and the gift for elevating the commonplace to the sublime.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Jewel Hilburn is 39 years old and the mother of five when Brenda Kay is born. A Down's Syndrome child, Brenda Kay becomes the focus of her mother's world and forever alters the life of the Hilburns. Jewel tells her own story, but her life becomes so intertwined with that of her daughter that such milestones as Brenda Kay's first step at age two and her learning to write the letter ``B'' at age 18 become joint achievements. Based on the lives of the author's grandmother and aunt, Jewel captures the intricate details of raising a retarded child--the total dedication demanded of a mother, the child's impact on the rest of the family, the joy and heartbreak of having a child who will remain eternally six years old. Lott has produced a powerful novel that warrants its selection as a Literary Guild Alternate.-- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Jewel Hilburn, the strong-willed narrator of this acutely affecting work, lavishes the parental love she never received upon her own exceptional child. Her adult life in rural Mississippi with two daughters, three sons and a devoted husband, Leston, has been one of domestic stability until the arrival in 1943 of her sixth child, Brenda Kay, afflicted with Down's syndrome. Brenda Kay becomes Jewel's, and necessarily her family's, sole focus: Leston's dream of owning a lumber company dies as medical costs mount, a lifelong friend is spitefully and unjustly blamed for an accident involving Brenda Kay, Jewel's decision to move the family to California to ensure the child's education sparks an excruciating battle of wills with Leston. Lott ( A Dream of Old Leaves ), who based his main characters on his own grandmother and aunt, expertly realizes a stubborn, faithful mother and her phenomenally unselfish, supportive family. Readers will suffer with Jewel, share her enthusiasm at Brenda Kay's progress, turn against her as she deliberately tries to break Leston's spirit. This haunting novel, imbued with an almost unbearable authenticity, runs the gamut of emotions associated with marriage and parenthood and acknowledges love's limitless potential. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Listeners will love this audio abridgment of a book chosen for Oprah's Book Club. It's about a struggling Mississippi mother whose iron will conquers all obstacles to getting quality care for her fifth child, Brenda Kay, who is born with Down's syndrome. When a local doctor gives the child two years to live, a black maid uses religion as a weapon of empowerment, prophesying that Brenda Kay will be both her mother Jewel's greatest burden and God's way of smiling on her and her family. Jewel is not daunted; resisting the odds, she uproots her family and reestablishes them in Southern California, near a special school where her daughter will get the best education. This loving portrait of a woman of determination is inspired writing. In the end, God has smiled on Jewel and her family by giving them a special child to care for, challenging and enhancing all their lives. The narration by Celia Weston is perfect. Highly recommended.ÄMark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

214 Main Street Hanlontown, IA 50444  |  Phone: 641-896-2888
Powered by: YouSeeMore © The Library Corporation (TLC)