In this captivating, critically acclaimed novel, "a seamless union between teller and tale" (The Boston Globe), Bret Lott creates a matchless portrayal of a mother's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her.
It is 1943 in the backwoods of Mississippi. In the land of honeysuckle and wild grapevine, Jewel Hilburn and her husband Leston -- whose love for his wife is the surest comfort she's ever known -- are truly blessed. They have five fine children who embrace the world as though it were a sumptuous table set for a feast; and when Brenda Kay is born, Jewel gives thanks for yet another healthy baby, last-born and most welcome.
Jewel is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lightning, an unforeseen event can illuminate our lives and set us on a course without reason or compass.
All too soon, Jewel knows that something is wrong with Brenda Kay; her every moment, every breath is taken up with caring for her daughter, with setting things straight. Leston's optimism is failing as fast as the Southern postwar economy. And the physicians Jewel calls "crack doctors" insist that no one can fix a brain born without the gift of common sense.
Against a stunning tableau reminiscent of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the uniquely talented Bret Lott traces the intricate changes among the members of the Hilburn family as Jewel deepens her quarrel with God, taking hold of the hardships that come her way. Jewel sees one hope for them; they must travel to a new life in the Promised Land of California....
We will wait a very long time before another writer matches the intensity and the beauty of this mother-daughter relationship. Jewel stands as an unforgettable masterwork, in which Bret Lott has created one of the finest and most indomitable heroines of contemporary American fiction.