Jewel Hardcover – Jan 1 1999
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The year is 1943 and life is good for Jewel Hilburn, her husband, Leston, and their five children. Although there's a war on, the Mississippi economy is booming, providing plenty of business for the hardworking family. And even the news that eldest son James has enlisted is mitigated by the fact that Jewel, now pushing 40, is pregnant with one last child. Her joy is slightly clouded, however, when her childhood friend Cathedral arrives at the door with a troubling prophecy: "I say unto you that the baby you be carrying be yo' hardship, be yo' test in this world. This be my prophesying unto you, Miss Jewel."
When the child is finally born, it seems that Cathedral's prediction was empty: the baby appears normal in every way. As the months go by, however, Jewel becomes increasingly afraid that something is wrong with little Brenda Kay--she doesn't cry, she doesn't roll over, she's hardly ever awake. Eventually husband and wife take the baby to the doctor and are informed that she is a "Mongolian Idiot," not expected to live past the age of 2. Jewel angrily rebuffs the doctor's suggestion that they institutionalize Brenda Kay. Instead the Hilburns shoulder the burdens--and discover the unexpected joys--of living with a Down's syndrome child.
Bret Lott has written a novel that spans decades, follows the lives of several characters, and cuts back and forth between Mississippi and California. Given these challenges, a lesser writer might lose focus. Lott, however, has wisely chosen to keep his eye trained on Jewel--a narrator who is smart, perceptive, and above all, honest. He has also bucked the trend toward political correctness by allowing his characters to think, feel, and talk the way white Mississippians of that era would have. ("Mongolian Idiot," "nigger," "cracker," and "buck" are just a few of the epithets sprinkled throughout the text.) The language may be discomforting to some readers. Few will deny, however, that Bret Lott has crafted a clan that is all heart in this bittersweet paean to the enduring strength of familial love. --Margaret Prior
From Publishers Weekly
Jewel Hilburn, the strong-willed narrator of this acutely affecting work, lavishes the parental love she never received upon her own exceptional child. Her adult life in rural Mississippi with two daughters, three sons and a devoted husband, Leston, has been one of domestic stability until the arrival in 1943 of her sixth child, Brenda Kay, afflicted with Down's syndrome. Brenda Kay becomes Jewel's, and necessarily her family's, sole focus: Leston's dream of owning a lumber company dies as medical costs mount, a lifelong friend is spitefully and unjustly blamed for an accident involving Brenda Kay, Jewel's decision to move the family to California to ensure the child's education sparks an excruciating battle of wills with Leston. Lott ( A Dream of Old Leaves ), who based his main characters on his own grandmother and aunt, expertly realizes a stubborn, faithful mother and her phenomenally unselfish, supportive family. Readers will suffer with Jewel, share her enthusiasm at Brenda Kay's progress, turn against her as she deliberately tries to break Leston's spirit. This haunting novel, imbued with an almost unbearable authenticity, runs the gamut of emotions associated with marriage and parenthood and acknowledges love's limitless potential.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
However, as a main character, I found Jewel extremely annoying. It seemed like she had children to satisfy her own ego, not to give out unconditional love. I thought she was very selfish. It was terrible the way she abandoned her other five kids. Bret Lott makes it seem like she had no other choice, that taking care of Brenda Kay was so hard that giving up the five others was inevitable. I couldn't get the warm fuzzies about Brenda Kay and jewel's mother/child relationship because I don't think Jewel WAS a good mother. Controlling and demanding, yes. Caring, no.
Also, this book was so heavy, weighed down with long descriptive phrases, renderings that made no sense, Jewel repeating herself again and again. There was not enough dialogue, and the action (or lack thereof) was insipid and SLOW. The first thing we learned in fiction writing in college is "SHOW, DON'T TELL." I ate up the few action scenes, as well as the family's backgrounds, like a greedy crack addict, dying for something out of Jewel's head.
Lott's voice as a countrified woman is fabulously realistic and I have't seen it done so well since Wally Lamb wrote "She's Come Undone." This story is so epic and so touching that it seems more like a memoir than fiction.
In truth, this is one of those books, not unlike "Gap Creek," where the reader is exposed to a whole new world and is able to become almost intimate with all the characters. This novel is filled with hardship, blissful ignorance, and a whole lot of what most of us know as the human condition.
The reason I gave this a lower rating is because I found at least thirty misspellings and typo's. Maybe it is the perfectionist in me, but so many mistakes really take away from the flow of the writing.
If this is a flaw that you can deal with, I highly recommend this book.
Jewel Hilburn is a good wife, bringing forth five strong, healthy children and making a comfortable home for her family. Although late in life, Jewel finds herself pregnant again -- a sixth child, the baby of the family, the apple of her eye. But five months after little Brenda Kay is born, Jewel notices something dreadfully different from her other children. God has blessed the Hilburn family with a special child, a Down's Syndrome baby, and one who will prove she is both the burden and joy of all their lives. The story spans an entire lifetime, beginning with flashbacks of Jewel's childhood and ending with Jewel in her 80s. For readers who enjoy epics and characters that grow up before you, Jewel, at least in that respect, will provide.
I am clearly stumped as to the drawback of this book (for me). Pages did not turn quickly, I was never excited to pick it up and return to the world of Jewel and her family. I will say the last few chapters of this book did evoke some emotion, but other than that, Jewel fell flat. There is an audience for this book; however, be aware that the story does not move quickly, paragraphs are overly descriptive, and there is not enough dialogue to push things along. If you are in a reading slump, bypass Jewel for something more exciting.
Most recent customer reviews
This was a great book. I loved the way the author showed the connections each family member had with Brenda Kay. Read morePublished on May 19 2004
....for several reasons. First, though the main character is a woman, the author is a man - yet you completely believe that a woman is telling this story. Read morePublished on March 26 2003 by William Sugarman
What a story! Where does someone get the kind of strength & courage Jewel has? This story gave us a wonderful insight to a family of 6 children, one of them born [mentally... Read morePublished on Dec 5 2002 by Theresa W
This book gave great insight to what it feels like to have a child with a disability. Not only did I gain an understanding of how a parent feels, I understood the way it effects... Read morePublished on July 2 2002
I have a son who was born with disabilities. I noticed that many of the reader that gave this book 5 stars had known someone who raised a child with disabilities or had raised a... Read morePublished on June 12 2002 by d hastings
This story was so real to life with all the struggles and triumps of a family. The story begins with Jewel (mother and main character) and her husband (Leston) living in a small... Read morePublished on Feb. 20 2002
I have enjoyed reading Bret Lott's novel, "Jewel". The book is about the hardships and happiness Jewel goes through in life. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2002 by Maeydah Hayat