My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Overall this book was quite melancholy, from the first chapter until the last that remained constant. The first chapter draws you in with so much emotion until you are almost in a panic to read what happens next. Instead of expounding on the tragedy at hand the author fast forwards the reader twenty-five years into an entirely different setting with new characters. It's a roller coaster from that point on with definite highs and lows.
Hattie and August married young, migrated from Georgia to Philadelphia, and started their family with the birth of twins: Philadelphia and Jubilee. The twins die of pneumonia as infants. Hattie fought relentlessly to keep them alive and never seems to recover after their deaths. Hattie becomes stoic and cold. All her nurturing died a long with Philadelphia and Jubilee.
"She felt their deaths like a ripping in her body."
In the following chapters, Mathis begins to introduce us to Hattie and August's children at various times in their lives. Initially, I wasn't too fond of this layout but as the story progressed I appreciated it more. Each child is wrestling with an inner demon of monumental porportions. Each supplemental story draws you in so much so that you forget about the last one but they all leave you with a load of unanswered questions. This is the blessing and the curse of a book with such a lay out. Mathis throws you in the middle of each of their lives during a major turning point or deep reflection.
I didn't love this book but I didn't hate it either. Now I guess some of you are wondering, "Why the five star rating?" The writing was phenomenal. The characters were vivid and haunting. These characters will stay with me for a long time. Personally, I never connected with Hattie. She was simply a "stand offish" kind of character. Mathis only allowed us to spend one day with Alice but she "exposed" her to us in that one day. I still wonder has Six really healed. Poor Cassie and what will ever happen to Sala. Did Ella's life turn out as good as Hattie had hoped? Does Ruthie ever get to know Lawrence and her real name? Did Franklin make it back from Vietnam? The story that I can't shake and I hope Mathis writes her story outside of the tribe has to be that of, Bell. You will think about Bell long after you have finished. Did she survive? Where did she end up? I'm throwing all these questions out here to spark discussion with those who have read the book and for those who haven't maybe you will read it to see what I'm talking about. Willie, a older woman and neighbor, is a "ghostly" character that has such a remarkable presence. If you read to fast you will miss her.
It was extremely hard writing this review and not allowing the spoilers to run rampant. This book has so much depth. Most of the time it's down right depressing. The Shepherd's are a highly disfunctional family that was lacking love from what most people consider the main source, their mother. Hattie never recovered. Read and enjoy the tribes.
Read my favorite quotes from the book at: Jade and Flamingo
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