The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis
published by Alfred A. Knopf
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. (from Goodreads)
From the very first chapter, I was captivated by the story of Hattie, a young mother struggling with the illness of her twin babies. In the most painful and simple language, the author shows us in the first chapter pretty much the last vestiges of Hattie’s love and sweetness. She is heartbroken by this tragedy, which will affect her and her children for the rest of the story.
Each chapter concentrates on the other 9 children Hattie bears, and, lastly, her granddaughter. While it was an interesting way to learn more about the main character, it honestly left me wanting. I never felt that I got to know each of these children, or Hattie for that matter, as much as I wanted to. I ended each chapter looking for more on each character, but never really getting it.
The writing by this first time author is amazing. Even if I was not thrilled with the format, the writing was wonderful and I would gladly read another by Ayana Mathis. This was a very impressive debut novel.
(out of 5)