For fans of Toni Morrison, an unforgettably powerful novel about a mother's courage, sacrifice and love, set against the volatile history of twentieth century America.
Ayana Mathis lives in New York. This is her first novel.
"The opening pages of Ayana's debut took my breath away. I can't
remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way,
besides the work of Toni Morrison." -- Oprah Winfrey
"Mathis traces the fates of Hattie's 12 children and grandchildren over the course of the 20th century, simultaneously capturing the voices and daily minutiae of every one of her characters. The understated assurance with which the 39-year-old pulls off this trick - a complex and engrossing work that has huge commercial hit written all over it - is remarkable." * Sunday Times *
"This fresh, powerful first novel turns the lives of Hattie's children into an epic of America in the 20th century. Tough, truthful, wonderfully controlled writing." -- Kate Saunders * The Times *
"Ms. Mathis has a gift for imbuing her characters' stories with an epic dimension that recalls Toni Morrison's writing, and her sense of time and place and family will remind some of Louise Erdrich, but her elastic voice is thoroughly her own - both lyrical and unsparing, meditative and visceral, and capable of giving the reader nearly complete access to her characters' minds and hearts." -- Michiko Kakutani * New York Times *
"`A vibrant and compassionate portrait of a family hardened and scattered by circumstance and yet deeply a family. Its language is elegant in its purity and rigor. The characters are full of life, mingled thing that it is, and dignified by the writer's judicious tenderness towards them. This first novel is a work of rare maturity.'" * Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of GILEAD and Orange Prize-winner of HOME *
Mathis's remarkable debut traces the life of Hattie Shepherd through the eyes of her offspring, depicting a family whose members are distant, fiercely proud, and desperate for connection with their mother. When 16-year-old Hattie's newborn twins, her first with husband August, die from pneumonia in the winter of 1925, it is a devastation that will disfigure her for the rest of her life. As the novel moves from closeted musician Floyd's fearful attempt to love another man in 1948, to Six's flight to Alabama two years later after beating a boy nearly to death, Alice's rift with her brother Billups in the late 1960s, consumptive Bell's aborted suicide in 1975, and Cassie's descent into schizophrenia in the early 1980s, what ties these lives together is a longing for tenderness from the mother they call the General. Strong, angry Hattie despairs as August, an ineffectual though affectionate father, reveals himself to be a womanizer who is incapable of supporting the family. Hattie finds happiness with Lawrence, a gambler; after having his baby, Hattie leaves August and her other children and goes with Lawrence to Baltimore, but returns to the house on Wayne Street, in Philadelphia, almost immediately. Sick with longing for her dead twins and all that her children will never have, Hattie retreats into coldness. As her children age, they come to terms with their intense need for and resentment of the mother who kept them alive but starved their hearts, while Hattie faces a choice between anger and peace. Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.