Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie; Ayana Mathis


Title: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Knopf
Edition: eGalley
Setting: Southern and Northern states
Source: Edelweiss
Date Completed: January - 2013 
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes
 
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a compelling story about a woman named Hattie as well as a story about her "tribe" of eleven children.  Hattie was just fifteen in 1924 when she, her mother and a sister came to Philadelphia from Georgia as part of the Great Migration; her father was murdered by two white men down South.
 
In Philadelphia, Hattie meets August Shepherd, and by the time Hattie is 17 she is the mother of twins. Even in Philadelphia Hattie can't seem to escape tragedy.  Her twins become contract pneumonia and later die.  Her husband offers no support or comfort, yet as the years pass Hattie gives birth to nine more children.  Children that she seems incapable of expressing love or tenderness to.  In fact, she in many ways seems like contributes to her dissatisfaction about how her life has turned out.
 
The story covers a period 55 years (1925-1980), and is told in chapters that focus on each of her children and later in 1980, on her 10 year old granddaughter.  Each chapter has a year as well as the name of one or two of the children. It is through her children and their issues that the reader gets to see the real Hattie.  As her children are growing up and later on as adults, we see how Hattie's perpetual unhappiness and inability to nurture has affected her children.
 
The story is beautifully written and heart wrenching at times as well. Lovers of literary fiction will want to savior certain passages. Written almost like a series of interrelated short stories, mostly bleak, with certain characters dealing with real tough issues like abuse, physical and mental illness, alcoholism, homosexuality etc. However, a reader who hangs in there will be treated to a few brief and happy moments as well.  As much as I liked the book, it wasn't perfect.  I felt at times the flow felt somewhat disjointed, and I also wanted to know more about some of the children. The only character that I felt I got to know was Hattie, but perhaps that was the author's intent. 

I think this book would make for a lively book club selection, and I now understand why Oprah has selected it. Have you read this one? If so I would love to hear what your thoughts.

21 comments:

  1. I haven't read this one but have been interested in it ever since Oprah picked it.

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  2. I haven't read this, but it does sound very poignant. Great review, Diane!

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  3. I've been looking forward to this one, but I'm a bit worried to see your comment about interlinked short stories and a disjointed feeling - that sort of thing can ruin a book for me :-( Hope I enjoy it anyway.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed this one, Diane. I'm sure it will be widely read due to the Oprah pick. It does sound like a good book club selection.

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  5. My mom's book club just read this one! It definitely seemed like a great pick for a book club!

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  6. I haven't read this one. I find that Oprah mostly picks bleak books, and I'm such a tragedy wimp. I can handle tragedy, but I do like a hopeful ending. Thanks for your review.

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  7. I don't mind the sound of this, but it sounds rather dark, and that might not be right now for me. I do like the way that this is constructed though, so I will have to look for it at a later time. Very nice review today!

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  8. I knew of this one because of Oprah's decision to choose it for her club. I have a problem with Oprah sometimes. She drives me nuts with her "I am queen" attitude but her staff picks some good books for discussion.

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  9. I've wanted to read this since first hearing about it a couple of months ago. I'm glad it lives up to the hype.

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  10. I saw this yesterday night at Barnes and Noble when I was returning my Nook HD (I know! I owned it all of five days before returning it for an iPad mini, but that's another story). This book is popping up all over so I was glad to have your valued take on it.

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  11. Sounds interesting although I think a reader would need to be in the mood for something "bleak". Great review, Diane!

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  12. I don't know why I'm always wary of Oprah's picks, but this one sounds superb. Definitely hope to find a place for it in my 2013 reading.

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  13. I keep hearing about this (probably because of the Oprah factor). Say what you want about her, she does tend to pick interesting books.

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  14. I enjoyed this book a lot. I think it's a really solid, well-written book with lots of food for conversation. I'm glad she picked it because it will get the broad readership it deserves.

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  15. Sounds like a good one for the history lovers and Civil War history buffs. Nice review.

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  16. I'm glad to see you liked this one Diane. I was on the fence about it but I finally picked it up the other day. I hope to get to it soon and then I'll come back to your review again.

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  17. I've been seeing such good reviews for this one that I need to make some time for it!

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  18. This book is on my probably read list for 2013.

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  19. I'll have to keep this one in mind - sounds up my alley - thanks for bringing it to my attention (I haven't been following Oprah)

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  20. I'm adding this one to my 2013 board..sounds good to me and I love trying to figure it all out!

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  21. I picked this one from the library couple of days ago and am hoping to read it soon. I've been hearing good things about it.

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